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GIFT or 


MLHaJV 'fv 






/f^- , ^iH^i^^^J:^ .^ 

C K 


The Kingdom of the 
Yellow Robe. 


Mr. Young has produced a book which ought more 
permanently to affectous conceptioos of a singularly 
interesting and very amiable and attractive people. All 
phases of the national life are presented by him with 
a sufBciency of detail, in alright, telling and graphic way. 

Birmingham Post. 

A picturesque and well informed description of the 
conflict of social ideals, which is now in progress in 
Siam .... this singularly yivid and finely illustrated book. 

Th€ Standard. 

This book abounds in curious and interesting informa- 
tion and the many illustrations by Mr. E. A. Norbury, 
and from the author's photographs are exceedingly good. 

The Daily News. 

This aim has been a popular account of the life and 
ideas of the people .... The Far East is daily coming 
nearer to the Western reader, and the present work is 
one which in our opinion destinctly helps to bridge the 
gulf between them. Nature. 

A volume of great value and no less attractive than 
it is valuable. Country Life. 

We welcome the book as contributing very materially 
to our knowledge of a singularly people. 

Westminster Gazette. 


Being Sketches of the Domestic and 

Religious Rites and Ceremonies 

OF THE Siamese 



Late of the Education Department, Siam, with Illustrations by 
E. A. NoRBURY, R.C.A., and from Photographs by the Author. 


• !•• •••••••• Y r '^ 


PrinUd at the Motley Tteu, IS, Rldon St., E.C. 

T O 



The following pages are intended to present to the reader an 
account of the domestic and religious rites and ceremonies of the 
Siamese. They are the outcome of several years' residence in the 
Capital of Siam. In order to verify some of my own observations 
or to amplify some points with regard to which my own knowledge 
was rather scanty, I have consulted most of the books which in 
recent years have been published concerning the country of Siam. 
I am particularly indebted to the works of two writers whose know- 
ledge was both wide and deep; viz., H. Alabaster, whose "Wheel 
of the Law" deals with Siamese Buddhism; and Captain Gerini, 
whose various monographs on domestic or religious customs are 
full of valuable and reUable information concerning their misty 
origin and meaning. I must also acknowledge my indebtedness to 
"The Siam Repository" (a weekly paper long since extinct, but 
whose pages are a treasure-house of information to the enquirer), 
and to my friend Mr. R. L. Morant for much helpful criticism 
and advice. 

The illustration *' Planting out young Rice" is from a sketch in the 
possession of Mrs. Smith, of Tarrawatta, Beckenham, who has kindly 
lent it for the purpose of illustrating this book. 

The following five illustrations are also from sketches, kindly lent 
by E. Lloyd Williams, Esq., of James St., Buckingham Gate. 

"Offering Rice to the Priests." 

"Making Curry." 

"Ploughing a Rice-field." 

"Collecting ripe Grain." 

"Rice Boats coming down the Menam." 

E. Y, 

Chingford, 189a 





Preface xi 

CHAPTER I. Street Scenes in the Venice of the 

East i 

» II. By Khlong and River 25 

„ III. The Children 44 

„ rv. The Shaving of the Top-knot .... 64 

M V. Courtship and Marriage 85 

„ VI. Domestic Life and Customs 103 

„ VII. „ „ „ „ (continued) 125 

„ VIII. Popular Amusements 147 

„ IX. Outside the Capital 171 

„ X. The Cultivation of Rice 196 

„ XI. Laws and Legislation 218 

„ XII. Ceremonies FOR the Dying AND THE Dead 235 

„ XIII. The Order of the Yellow Robe ... 251 

„ XIV. Among the Temples 272 

XV. „ „ „ {continued) ... 297 

„ XVI. Religious Ceremonies 316 

„ XVIL „ „ (continued), . . 338 

XVIII. „ „ (continued). . . 358 

„ XIX A Pilgrimage to Prabat 375 

XX. The Elephants 388 



The Shrine in the Middle of the Waters. (Frontispiece.) vi 

A Scavenger 3 

The CxmRY Vendor 6 

The Kerosine Dealer lo 

The Three Headed Gate. {Full page,) 15 

A Gharry 23 

Rice Boats coming down the Menam 27 

A Lighter 31 

Siamese Canoes 33 

Chinese trading Junk 36 

"Can I GIVE YOU a lift, Reverend Father?" 40 

Mother and Child 58 

Mount Kailasa as erected for the Hair Cutting Ceremonies 

OF H.R.H. THE Crown Prince of Siam. {Full page.) ... 81 

A Chinese Merchant 97 

A Siamese Teakwood House. {Full page,) 106 

Making Curry 119 

Steaming Rice 123 

A Rickshaw 135 

Laying Wagers on Fighting Fish. {Full page,) 151 

A Writer of Lottery Tickets 155 

Faces from a Siamese Theatre 165 

Preparing Rattan for Chair-making 172 

Fishing Boats at the Bar 177 



Klong near Petchaboorree. {Full page,) i8i 

A Buffalo Cart. {Full page,) 185 

A Siamese Bullock Cart 189 

The Swinging Festival. {Full page^ 197 

Collecting Ripe Grain. {Full page,) 199 

A Siamese Rice Plough. {Full page,) 203 

Planting out Young Rice— Foot of Korat Hills .... 206 

Ploughing a Rice Field 208 

Buffaloes returning from the Rice Fields. {Full page,) . 215 

A Royal Funeral Procession. {Full page,) 237 

The Poor Man's Funeral 245 

Priest and Attendant 255 

Offering Rice to the Priest 264 

A Village Temple. {Full page,) 275 

Sala in a Jungle Clearing. {Full page,) 279 

Temple Bell Tower. {Full page) 291 

Wat Chang, Bangkok. {Full page) 299 

The Sleeping Bxn)DHA. {Full page) 309 

The Festival of Kaw Prasai. {Full page) 319 

Wat Chang at Sunset. {Full page) 345 

Prabat Hills from near Ayuthia. {Full page) 379 




Bangkok, the Venice of the East, was not the Capital 
of Siam during the earlier period of that country's history. 
Formerly the seat of government was at Ayuthia; but the 
ancient capital is now a heap of ruined temples and 
dwellings, an attraction for travellers, but of little impor- 
tance to the people themselves. At the time when this 
mouldering city was the home of the Sovereign, a man 
of Chinese origin was sent to govern one of the northern 
provinces of the country. He is known in Siamese history 
as Phya Tak, and was a man of great administrative ability. 
When the invading armies of Burmah, in their triumphant 
march through Siam, reached the neighbourhood of the 
ancient capital, Phya Tak was sent for by the king, to 
aid him with his counsel and strength. His reputation 
as a brave and powerful warrior secured for him his 
appointment as Commander-in-Chief of the Siamese army. 
Mustering all the available forces of the kingdom, he set 
out to do battle with the enemy. It was hoped that he 


would utterly rout the invading army, and so free the land 
from its powerful enemies. But when the valiant Talc came 
in sight of the foe, he was not long in realising that any 
attack that might be made by his small army against the 
much greater numbers of the Burmese, could only end in 
his utter defeat He promptly fled with all his own re- 
tainers, and with as many of the soldiers as cared to follow 
him, to the port of Chantaboon. Here he leagued him- 
self with all the fighting men and chiefs of the neighbour- 
ing provinces, and finally collected an army of about ten 
thousand men. He supported himself and his soldiers by 
robbing and pillaging all the villages along the coast. 

The Burmese, carrying with them many captives, and 
much treasure of gold and silver gained at the sack of 
Ayuthia in 1767, at last returned once more to their own 
land. Then Phya Tak came north again, and on the spot 
where the Regent's pa^lace now stands, built himself a 
home and proceeded to found the walled city of Bangkok. 
Having accomplished this work, he several times defeated 
the Burmese, then re-organised some form of administration 
and caused himself to be acknowledged as king of the 
land. Associated with him in all his adventures and 
successes was a close personal friend and confidential 
adviser. This man was of noble birth and vigorous char- 
acter, and it was to his counsel and assistance that tlie 
new sovereign owed much of his success. Soon after the 
king had completed his great work of re-organisation he 
unfortunately became insane. The priests brought against 


him accusations of sacrilege and impiety, and tried to stir 
the people to revolt. He was extremely unpopular on 
account of the heavy taxes he had levied on the wealthier 
classes, as also for the extreme cruelty with which he had 
treated all ranks of his subjects. Stimulated both by the 
exhortations of the priests, and by the oppressive treat- 



ment to which they were daily subjected, the citizens of 
the new capital at length rose in rebellion. Their sover- 
eign fled from his angry subjects and took refuge in a 
neighbouring monastery, where he donned the yellow robe 
and declared himself a priest. This declaration saved his 
life for a short time, but soon after his flight he was put 
to death by his favourite friend and general, who then 


followed the promptings of his ambition and the sugges- 
tions of his fellow-noblemen, in assuming the royal robes 
and crown. He called himself Somdetch Pra Boroma 
Rahcha Pra Putta Yaut Fah, and became the first king of 
the present dynasty. It is with the fall of Ayuthia, the 
rise of these two usurpers, and the founding of Bangkok 
that the authentic history of Siam commences. A period 
of about one hundred and forty years comprises the limits 
within which the chief facts of Siamese history can be 
substantiated. Bishop Pallegoix, compiled from native 
annals an account of Siam and its people, extending back 
to a very remote period; but His Majesty the late King 
has somewhat lessened one's confidence in these annals 
by declaring that they are " all full of fable, and are not 
in satisfaction for believe." 

The city which was thus founded by Phya Tak, has 
ever since remained the chief home of the sovereign, and 
the seat of government. It is now one of the most interest- 
ing of Oriental towns. From the break of day till scorching 
noon, from scorching noon till the first cool breeze of even- 
ing, from sunset until midnight, and from then on through the 
small hours of the morning, the busy streets of Siam's capital 
present a never ending procession of curious and picturesque 
scenes. With the first faint glimmer of light in the east, the 
life of the city begins. The approach of day is heralded with 
the sonorous voices of the huge gongs that are being 
vigorously beaten by the official welcomer of the dawn, in 
a turret within the walls of the Royal Palace. The cocks, 


who have crowed the whole night through with trouble- 
some persistency, greet the rising of the sun in notes both 
long and shrill, as if they were trying to impress upon 
their hearers the belief that they have but just awakened 
from the profoundest of slumbers. The bull-frog croaks 
his surly good morning. The pariah dogs howl or bark 
with an amount of vigour and determination, that shows 
that they too are anxious to contribute their share to the 
combination of discordant sounds, that forms a fitting pre- 
lude to the noise and bustle of the coming day. 

It is not to be supposed that the wealthier members of 
Siamese society rise at this early hour. As a matter of 
fact, they have but recently retired to rest, and will not 
appear again either for business or pleasure until the sun 
has crossed the meridian. All the business of the State, 
and all the pleasures of Society are conducted in the cool 
hours of evening, night, or early morning, while during 
the broiling heat that comes and goes with the daylight, 
officialdom sleeps and rests. It is an excellent arrangement. 
The lower classes, however, are soon awake and astir. First 
to arise are the Chinese inhabitants. Here, as everywhere 
in the East, the subjects of the Celestial Empire have found 
their way, and, by their untiring energy and their wonderful 
adaptability to all changes of custom, life, and government, 
have managed to establish themselves so securely that any 
attempt to dislodge them would, if successful, be fatal to 
the best interests of the country. They live and die in 
the same atmosphere of superstition that surrounded them 


at their birth. No matter to what country their industry 
and enterprise may lead them, they never forget during 
their daily toil to give frequent evidence of their keen 
faith in the supernatural. Their first act on rising in the 
morning is to explode a number of noisy fire-crackejs in 
every doorway, to dispel the crowds of evil spirits, who, 
during the dark hours of the night may have congregated 



round their thresholds with intent to do them harm. In 
the swarms of buzzing flies and stinging mosquitoes there 
are innumerable emissaries of the powers of ill, and these 
the noise and smoke effectually disperse for a brief interval. 
So that the daily practice of one superstitious custom is 
not without its immediate if temporary effect upon the well- 
being of its devout observers. 


The shops and workshops are open in front to the street 
on account of the intense tropical heat. There is no diffi- 
culty whatever in seeing and hearing every native dealer 
or craftsman as he pursues his daily employment. The 
foot-lathe of the woodturner, rude but efficient, whirls busily 
round, scattering its chips into the street ; tlie barber sharpens 
his razors, sets his pans and chairs at the edge of the 
roadway in view of every passer-by, and prepares to shave 
a head or trim a pig-tail ; and the idol-maker spreads his gold 
and silver leaf upon representations of Buddha made in wood 
or plaster after a strictly orthodox and ancient pattern. 

Numerous Buddhist priests in robes of yellow, saffron 
or orange, pace slowly along with alms-bowb of wood or 
brass, receiving their daily food from the believers in their 
ancient faith. Their garments borrow new hues from the 
lately risen sun, and stand out in vivid and picturesque relief 
against the more sober tints of the roads and dwellings. 
The itinerant curry-vendor wastes no time in preparing his 
unsavoury messes, and is soon busy trying to dispose of 
them to the passers-by. A pole slung over his shoulder, 
bears at one end a small earthenware stove with a supply 
of charcoal and water. At this end he cooks, to order, 
the various delicacies suspended from the other end of the 
pole. The water in the pot is drawn from the nearest canal 
or stagnant pool and is almost a meal in itself. For a 
farthing you may purchase a bowl of rice, which is warmed 
in the boiling water while you wait. Another farthing will 
provide you with a number of attendant luxuries in the 


form of very fiery pepper or very strong and unhealthy 
smelling vinegar. The basis of the curry may be frog or 
chicken, stale meat, fermented fish, decayed prawn, or one 
of a thousand articles of equally evil taste and pungent 
odour. Most things are either cooked or re-warmed for the 
purchaser by the simple plan of suspending them in a sieve 
inside the pot of boiling water. The same pot and the 
same water serve for all customers alike, so that the hun- 
dredth hungry individual gets for his farthing, not only all 
that he bargains for, but various tastes of the other delicacies 
that his predecessors at the counter have elected to buy. 
No charge is made for the use of the china basin which 
has not been washed since the last man used it, or for the 
loan of the leaden or earthenware spoons, or a couple of 
chopsticks. Neither the proprietor of this strolling restaurant 
nor the force of public opinion demand that these articles 
be used, and for many, fingers take the place of either 
chopsticks or spoons. 

" Isa-kee 1 Isa-kee ! " It is a queer sound when you hear it 
for the first time. A Chinaman comes staggering along the 
road, carrying two heavy pails at the ends of the usual 
bamboo pole. He bawls in long, loud, nasal tones, " Isa-kee I 
Isa-kee 1" The man is wet with the perspiration that streams 
down his bare yellow body and soaks the cloth round his 
loins, that forms his only clothing. Presently, crowds of 
little boys, dressed in even less than the noisy vendor, 
collect round him and purchase with avidity the strange- 
looking mess denominated '< isa-kee." He collects the coppers. 


and places them in a small leather purse, tied round his 
waist with a bit of string, there to He in company with a 
little rank, black tobacco, or opium, until time will permit 
him to lose them in the maddening excitement of the 
gambling dens. "Isa-kee" is the vendor's reproduction of 
the English word "ice-cream", though there is little resem- 
blance between the commodity he disposes of with such 
extraordinary rapidity, and the fashionable European delicacy 
whose name it has borrowed. A more truthful name and 
description of the article sold in the streets of Bangkok, 
would be "ice-mud." It is apparently a concoction of 
dirty water, half-frozen slush, and sugar. Being cold and 
sweet it is a favourite sweetmeat with the native children, 
and the ice-cream merchant may generally be found doing 
a roaring trade outside the different schools during playtime. 
When ice itself was first introduced to the Siamese by the 
European residents, they promptly coined for it the short 
and expressive name of " hard- water." It is amusing to 
hear the little ones exclaim as they swallow the frozen 
fluid, "Golly I How it bums!'' 

As far as the casual observer can judge, in this capital 
of Siam there are no Siamese engaged in any hard manual 
labour at all. There are of course, many Siamese employed 
in various kinds of domestic or official work, but in the 
streets nearly every workman is Chinese. There are nearly 
as many Chinese in the country as there are Siamese. 
They marry Siamese women, and their children make 
excellent subjects, as they possess both the natural brightness 



of the mother and the industry of the father. Unless they 
renounce their own nationality they are subject to a poll- 
tax of about five or six shillings, payable once every four 
years. At a date made known by proclamation, each 
Chinaman must present himself at the police-station and 
pay the tax. The receipt given is a small piece of bee*s-wax 
about the size of a three-penny piece. This bears a seal, 


and is worn on the wrist for a certain time, fastened by a 
piece of string. The police are very busy at this time, 
as there is nothing the Siamese policeman so much enjoys 
as leading some unfortunate Chinaman to pay the tax. 
Should the seal be lost, the alien is bound to buy another 
as soon as he is requested by some officer of the law. 

Carpenters, blacksmiths, butchers, bakers and scavengers 
are all Chinese. It is a Chinaman who sits all through 


the heat of the day, under a tent made of an old sheet 
supported by a central bamboo pole, displaying an array 
of strange-looking liquids, placed in thick glass tumblers 
in a long row. Great lumps of vermicelli float in the blue, 
green, red, or yellow liquids, presenting the appearance of 
curious anatomical specimens preserved in coloured spirits. 
It is a Chinaman who hawks about great pails of slimy, 
black jelly having the consistency and colour of blacking, 
but said to be extremely palatable with coarse brown sugar. 
The men who are watering the roads with wooden buckets 
fitted with long, bamboo spouts; the men who sweep the 
roads, and mend them; the coolies in the wharves; the 
clerks in the offices ; the servants in the hotels and houses : 
are all subjects of "The Lord of the Vermilion Pencil." 

No Siamese pulls a rickshaw, though he frequently rides 
in one. The Chinese are the beasts of burden as far as 
the Bangkok rickshaw is concerned. This vehicle, as seen 
in Siam is a very sorry-looking object, bearing only a 
distant resemblance to those met with in every Eastern 
port from Colombo to Yokohama. Nowhere do you ever 
find such dilapidated rickety structures as those that the 
coolies pull through the streets of this city. A new one 
would be a veritable curiosity. When the rickshaws of Singa- 
pore and Hong-kong have reached a condition of extreme 
old age, and are so broken down that the authorities in 
those ports refuse to grant them licences any longer, they 
are sent on to Bangkok, where no licences are required. 
There the poorer classes use them freely, and there too 


are they as often used for the removal of household furniture, 
or the transportation of pigs, as they are for the carriage 
of passengers. The coolies tear through the streets, regard- 
less of anyooe's comfort or safety except their own ; though, 
be it said, that they never resent the cut of a driver's 
whip when some coachman thus forcibly reminds them 
which is the right side of the road. 

Pigs are not always allowed the luxury of riding in rick- 
shaws. They are more usually transported in a far less 
comfortable fashion. Their two front feet are tied together, 
and then their hind feet are similarly fastened. A stout 
piece of wood is passed under the two loops thus formed, 
and the pig is carrii^d by two men, each bearing one end 
of the pole. The animals generally object very strongly 
to this form of motion, and signify their disgust, and perhaps 
their pain, by the most heart-rending, ear-piercing shrieks. 
Thus another set of discordant sounds is added to the 
medley that roars from morning to night. 

The rickshaw was borrowed from Japan; the "gharry" 
has been imported from India. It is a square box-like struc- 
ture, the upper half beinj( fitted with sliding windows similar 
to those in the door of a London four-wheeler. These 
windows, when open, admit of a free circulation of air, and 
they can easily be closed to keep out either rain, dust, or 
sun, at the will of the passenger. The sliding window- 
frames are always badly fitted, and they rattle and shake 
with such a terribly deafening noise, that two people sitting 
side by side, are compelled to shout when they wish to 


address each other. Riding in these coaches gives one the 
sensation of being a kind of marble inside a gigantic rattle- 
box that is being vigorously shaken for the driver's amuse- 
ment. The majority of the gharries are not in a very much 
better condition than the rickshaws. The harness is generally 
made of rope or string, instead of leather, and even if a 
leather strap or trace is visible, it is nearly always in two 
or three pieces temporarily connected with string. At very 
short intervals of time and space, the driver is compelled 
to descend and repair as best he can the broken connec- 
tions. These drivers are chiefly Siamese or Malays, and so 
many of them have adopted the red Turkish fez as a 
head-dress, that it can safely be taken as the badge of 
coachmen. In fine weather both Malay and Siamese drivers 
wear their own national costumes, but should it rain, they 
promptly divest themselves of every stitch of clothing ex- 
cept a cloth round the loins. They place their garments in 
a box under the seat, and drive about in a state of almost 
perfect nudity until the sun reappears and dries them 
with his rays, when they once more clothe themselves 
in their native apparel. 

The "omnibus" is a variation of the English one, with 
extensive and important modifications. It is of local construc- 
tion, and without springs. It consists of a long shallow 
box on four wheels. A rickety roof is supported by equally 
rickety pillars, and serves to keep out the sun and rain. 
Omnibuses are very popular amongst the poor, on account 
of their exceedingly low fares, several miles being travelled 


for a few cents. Every kind of vehicle is crowded to its 
fullest capacity. A rickshaw will ordinarily hold two; you 
may often see four or five in one. A gharry should carry 
four, but by crowding inside and piling one person on top 
of the other, with the addition of a couple hanging on be- 
hind, one on each door-step, and one on each hub of the 
wheels, a whole family manages to get conveyed to its 
destination by means of a single conveyance. Omnibuses 
are similarly crowded and packed, to an extent which is 
only possible on account, first, of the absence of any law 
to prevent it, and secondly, of the genial good-temper of 
the natives themselves. 

Klings and Tamils from Southern India have introduced 
the bullock cart as a convenient method of carrying heavy 
goods. These Indian settlers are the bullock drivers, 
the dairymen, and the owners of cattle. They export a 
large number of lean bullocks to Singapore and the Malay 
Archipelago, where they are subsequently fattened to feed 
the residents. The value of the animals thus exported, is 
about two hundred and forty thousand Mexican dollars 

An electric tramway, and bicycles of the most modem 
construction, tell their own tale of the way in which 
European influences are making themselves felt in this land. 
The only real Siamese land carriage is a curious buffalo 
cart. It is rarely seen in the streets of the capital, as its 
peculiar form and construction fit it more particularly for 
traffic through the jungle. 


Paj(e 22, 


The varied colours of the different costumes worn by the 
members of many nationalities, form a strikingly bright and 
cheerful picture. Blue being the colour of every Chinaman's 
work-a-day clothing, is at once a conspicuous and pleasant 
tint. It is only during the three days' festivities that 
usher in the Celestial New Year, that the wearers of the 
pigtail disport themselves in any other colour. During 
those three days, however, they are adorned with the richest 
of heliotrope, lavender, pale blue, green or yellow silks. 
In the intervals between successive New Years these gor- 
geous garments are safely deposited in the pawnshops. The 
various shades of yellow and brown that predominate in 
every crowd, are not the result of the dyer's art, but the 
effect of the hot bright sunlight upon the bare bodies of 
those who go uncovered. The same bright light intensifies 
the whiteness of the European linen jackets, now adopted 
by so many Siamese in lieu of the gaily coloured scarf 
that formerly was the only clothing worn on the upper 
part of the body. Even now most of the women wind a 
long sash of some vivid hue round the breast, thus forming 
a cheerful band of colour against the whiteness of the jacket. 
In every crowd may be seen not only Siamese and Chinese, 
but Sikhs in scarlet turbans, Burmese in yellow and pink, 
Malays in gaudy sarongs, Laos in dark striped petticoats; 
as well as Annamese, Klings, Tamils and Japanese, each 
of whom is ever dressed in the garb that centuries of 
custom have defined as his own particular method of 
clothing his nakedness. When to the effect of all these 


pleasing colours, is added the happy merriment of thousands 
of faces that have never yet experienced the fierce struggle 
for existence that characterises the life of the poor of the 
West, a scene is realised which is nowhere to be met with 
except in the sun-kissed lands of the East. 

In the licensed gambling-houses there is always a little 
crowd of excited men and women, who, when they have 
lost their trifling earnings, speedily proceed to the pawnshops 
with any article of clothing or furniture that is not abso 
lutely indispensable to their existence. When their own 
property has all been squandered they take that belonging 
to other people, thus producing an endless succession of 
daily thefts. The city is full of pawnshops, some streets 
containing scarcely any other form of business. It is in 
these places that the Europeans hunt for their frequently 
stolen property, or search for the curios that are afterwards 
presented to friends or sold to museums at home. 

The numbers of civil, genial postmen in their yellow 
kharki uniforms faced with red, and carrying big Japanese 
umbrellas under their arms, are suflSciently numerous and 
busy to testify to the efficiency of this branch of the Civil 
Service. Most of the policemen are Siamese, but their 
appearance is always a decided contrast to that of the 
neatly clad postmen. Their uniforms, made of blue cloth, 
are intended to be reproductions of those worn by their 
London brethren. But as they are made of a cloth that 
rapidly shrinks and fades, a caricature rather than an 
imitation is the result. They are partial to umbrellas, roll 


their trousers above their knees, wear no shoes, and seem 
to revel in the possession of battered helmets. There is 
nothing whatever in thdr bearing that is characteristic of 
authority, neither are they men of great stature or com- 
manding strength. Yet they seldom meet with any resistance 
in the exercise of their duties, and it is a common sight 
to see a puny-looking policeman leading three or four 
natives to the police-station, each prisoner being merely 
fastened by the arm to the one behind, with his own 
scarf or pocket-handkerchief. 

So many of the native houses with their quaint gables 
and double or triple roofs have been pulled down, and 
brick ones of European pattern erected instead, that 
scarcely any purely native street remains. The one truly 
native quarter is a long narrow bazaar known as Sampeng. 
It is about a mile and a quarter in length, and contains a 
very mixed population of Indians, Siamese, and Chinese. 
It resembles somewhat a street in Canton, but lacks the 
wealth of elaborately carved and gilded sign-boards, that 
gives such a decidedly local atmosphere to a purely Chinese 
street Stretched overhead, from side to side, are pieces 
of torn cloth and matting, that act quite as effectively in 
keeping out the sun as in imprisoning that awful combina- 
tion of foul odours that seems to be the possession of all 
Oriental thoroughfares. The small gutter which runs in 
front of each house is full of stagnant water or of the 
accumulated domestic rubbish of the people who dwell by 
its side. This long narrow bazaar, however, is not without 


Its own attractions. Here are gathered together specimens 
of all the native produce, and here too work a few exponents 
of each of the native crafts. Blacksmiths and weavers are 
plying their several trades; workers in gold and silver are 
fashioning boxes and ornaments for the rich, and the 
lapidaries are polishing stones for the jewellers to set. Peep- 
shows and open-air theatres tempt the idle to linger, and 
numbers of busy toilers jostle each other as they make 
their way to and fro over the uneven, roughly paved foot- 
path. At night, the shops are closed, but the gambling- 
houses, opium dens, and brothels are thronged by the 
lowest of the low. At one end of the bazaar is the chief 
idol manufactory of the country. The thousands of temples 
that are scattered all over Siam, require a large stock of 
images ; and the devout are frequent donors of representa- 
tions of Buddha, of values proportionate to their means. 
Most of the idols are made according to one or other of 
the following methods. 

A wooden model of the desired image is first made. It 
is next covered with very thin silver-leaf, after which the 
wooden model is removed and the interior filled up with 
pitch. This is perhaps the most common method of making 
small cheap idols. The larger ones are first modelled in 
wax, and then covered with a cement made of fine sand 
and clay. This is dried in the sun and finally heated in a 
furnace, when the wax melts and is collected for use another 
time. Melted brass is then poured over the image and 
evenly spread until the whole surface is covered with a 


thin coating of metal. A great many gilded images are 
made, the gold-leaf being laid over a covering of black 
pitch. Until the outer layer of gold, silver, or brass has 
been deposited on the carved or moulded figure, and until 
the eyes have been placed therein, it is not considered in 
any way sacred. The two last operations are frequently 
attended with great ceremony at the home of the owner, 
in the presence of many priests. 

In every temple there are " printed gods". These are very 
small idols, about an inch or two in length, made of clay 
and having a flat surface at the back. They are stuck in 
rows, on a piece of board painted with some bright colour, 
and are then gilded and placed in the temple. 

In the remotest alley, the most secluded corner, the 
broadest highway, or the most open of public spaces, roam 
the most disreputable and degraded members of the canine 
family — the pariah dogs. Black, brown, white, and spotted 
dogs with skeleton frames and sunken eyes, many of them 
in the last stages of disease and decay, snap at the dirtiest 
bone, or feast upon the filthiest rubbish they can find. 
They own no master, and no man owns them. They may 
be counted till one is weary of counting, and yet the eye 
will still discover many that remain unnumbered. Often it 
would be a kindness to the poor starved and crippled creatures 
to put them speedily out of pain, but the Buddhist law, " Thou 
shalt not kill", is all powerful here, and so the pariahs breed 
and multiply, giving in return for the permission to live, 
their effective services as vigilant and industrious scavengers. 


In the markets, the natives squat cross-legged upon their 
stalls, offering for sale vegetables and fruit, betel nut and 
cigars, salted fish and queer-looking sweetmeats ; or busying 
themselves, in the absence of customers, by vigorously waving 
a big palm or banana leaf to drive away the clouds of flies 
that would otherwise immediately settle upon their perishable 
wares. The dealers are chiefly Siamese women, and are 
amongst the most polite and obliging saleswomen in the 

The original city of Bangkok is surrounded by a high 
thick wall pierced with many gates that are never closed. 
The principal entrance is the one known as ''The Three- 
Headed Gate", so called on account of the three tapering 
spires that surmount the three openings. By far the larger 
portion of the population lives outside the wall, but as the 
Royal Palace and nearly all the Government buildings are 
within its circumference, it encloses everything that is of 
importance to the native as far as government is concerned. 
The roads in the city are excellent, and in the neighbour- 
hood of the palace itself there are a number of wide open 
green spaces that would not discredit any city of Europe. 
The palace is enclosed by several rows of departmental 
offices, outside of which is a high white wall. 

Day closes with a rapidity equal to that with which it dawns, 
there being no long spell of twilight either in the morning 
or the evening. In the principal streets, the electric light 
has displaced the small old oil lamps that at one time 
formed the only evening illumination known to the people, 


but on the outskirts of the city the lamplighter still wends 
his evening round, carrying the small ladder, boxes of 
matches, and bottles of oil, that mark the nature of his 
occupation. The oil lamps are placed at more or less irre- 
gular intervals, and are soon blown out by any wind of 
moderate strength. Little cholera lamps swung aloft at the 



ends of long slender poles, sway backwards and forwards, 
telling where the grim fiend has entered in his work of 
destruction. The Chinese light their smoky tallow candles 
and place them in large quaint lanterns bearing mystic 
signs and symbols; while round the city wall itself, the 
cocoa-nut oil lamps burn with a lurid glare, sending forth 
at the same time dense clouds of yellow pungent smoke. 


In the absence of drunken men and women and the 
scarcity of women of ill-fame, the streets of Bangkok might 
well serve as a model for some of the wealthier and 
more handsome towns of Europe. There is one thing 
to be regretted in connection with the improvements that 
are daily being made in the capital, and that is the gradual 
effacement of all traces of native design or workmanship. 
Bridges, houses and railway stations are mostly of a distinctly 
European type, and that type one of uncompromising ugli- 
ness. The new streets of Bangkok, if cleaner and sweeter 
than the old, have nothing of the curious charm of those 
they have replaced, and are merely excellent examples of 
unadulterated brick and mortar unrelieved by the faintest 
trace of anything that could possibly be described as artistic. 



In a walk through any Siamese street the traveller cannot 
fail to remark the total absence of any carriage or other 
wheeled vehicle of native design. There are conveyances 
of many descriptions borrowed from India, China, Japan, 
and Europe, but none whatever that can be pointed out 
as being designed by the Siamese themselves. Any enquiry 
as to the cause of this apparently strange lack of original- 
ity in a matter which so directly concerns the daily life 
of the community, is readily answered. Until a compara- 
tively recent date there were practically no roads in the 
country, and even at the present time, the roads in any 
part of the kingdom outside Bangkok scarcely deserve the 
name. There are r.carcely any means of communication 
between one village and another, and very often only 
defective communication between two parts of the same 
village, except by water. The water is the true home of 
the Siamese, and it is on this, their native element, that 
their real character and genius are best exhibited. It is 
true that, in the capital, they now ride ponies and bicycles, 
for a few roads suitable to such forms of exercise 


exist, but the boat, not the horse, the paddle, not the 
whip, are the property of the nation at large. 

In earlier times, when they erected houses upon land, 
they chose as the most convenient sites for their dwellings, 
the banks of the rivers or the shores of the sea. When 
agricultural enterprise led to the formation of inland settle- 
ments, no roads were made to connect the new settlement 
with those already existing, but canals or " khlongs " were 
cut instead. The connections between rivers were made 
in a similar fashion ; and for purposes of pleasure or business, 
religious processions or state ceremonies, a thousand different 
forms of boat were planned and constructed. The number- 
less canals that thread their way across the plains in every 
possible direction, have turned the lower portion of Siam 
into a veritable labyrinth of winding water-ways. The 
khlongs differ in age, appearance and size, as do the roads 
of more densely populated countries. The ancient high- 
ways of Europe here find their parallel in canals whose 
age and origin it would be difficult to determine, though 
none of them possess any history extending to periods 
that Western historians would call remote. Even as the 
municipalities and corporations of our land construct year 
by year new roads for the facilitation of traffic, so, for the 
same purpose new waterways are being continually cut 
in the land of Siam. The broad deep khlongs with their 
double lines of house-boats, and their continual traffic of 
lumbering barges, cumbersome rafls, comfortable house- 
boats and tiny canoes, are the great streets of the cities, 



and the highways of the plains. The foul-smelling, silted- 
up water alleys, with their rotten disreputable houses, and 
their heaps of decaying refuse, are the slums and blind 
alleys ; while the green lanes and country by-paths of more 


temperate lands are here represented by delightful little 
canals that twine their way through the thick jungle. The 
palms meet overhead and form a sheltering canopy ; birds 
of many brilliant hues flit lazily from branch to branch. 


consoling themselves for their loss of song in the contem- 
plation of their gorgeous plumage. There are lonely canals 
in comparatively unfrequented places, where only occasional 
travellers disturb the silence. Here the alligator stretches 
his long ungainly form in the grey and slimy mud; the 
monkeys chatter to one another amongst the branches of 
the trees upon the banks ; and the squirrels gambol in the 
tree-tops up aloft, in conscious enjoyment of perfect freedom 
and everlasting sunshine. 

The great river upon which Bangkok stands, flows almost 
directly from north to south, through mountain valleys and 
deep ravines, then tumbles, boils, and roars through a 
series of dangerous rapids until it reaches the wide and 
fertile plains, to whose inhabitants it means both life and 
wealth. In most European maps it is called the river Menam, 
but as "menam" itself means "river", the name as thus 
written possesses no meaning. Every river in the country 
is called ''menam," the first syllable of the word meaning 
"mother", and the second one "water." The real name 
of the Bangkok river is " Menam Chow Phya", which may 
be freely rendered as the "River Duke", for "Chow Phya" 
is the highest title of nobility that can be held by anyone 
not of royal descent. Every traveller enters Siam by this 
river, and in passing from its mouth to the capital, he may 
easily observe many excellent examples of true Siamese 
life and customs. At the entrance there is a bar of sand 
and mud, which at low tide is visible in certain places, and 
which even at high tide is never covered by more than 


fifteen feet of water. As a consequence, no deeply laden 
vessels can enter the river, and they have to load or 
discharge the greater part of their cargo by means of small 
sailing vessels called •* lighters", at an island in the gulf. 
There is only one narrow passage through the bar, and the 
unwary mariner frequently runs aground. It is said that 
when the Siamese Minister for Foreign Affairs was asked 
why no attempt was made to remove this bar, that thereby 
the river might be rendered more navigable, and commerce 
facilitated, he replied, **For the same reasons that you 
English don't relish the idea of a Channel Tunnel." Similar 
banks of mud or sand, or both, render unnavigable every 
river that flows through the country. They are decisive 
evidence of the way in which the whole of the gulf is being 
gradually filled up. The coast is everywhere shallow, and at 
low tide long stretches of mud may be seen at any point on 
the northern shores of the inlet. The whole of lower Siam 
is one vast alluvial deposit. In several places in the interior, 
borings for wells have passed through thick strata of sea- 
shells and other marine deposits, thus showing that in earlier 
days the northern limit of the g^lf extended far north of 
the site of the present capital. 

Having crossed the bar, the general character of the river 
becomes at once apparent. The appearances presented are 
characteristic of all the rivers in this part of the world. 
On either bank the thick jungle comes down to the water's 
edge, forming a dense green mass of lowly attap or' stately 
palm, interlaced with lianes and gigantic creepers, full of 


thorny bushes and different species of the cactus family, 
with the lordly palm towering high above the living under- 
growth, demanding and obtaining instant admiration from 
every beholder, and majestically waving his verdant crown 
in condescending acknowledgment of the homage paid to 
his unquestioned sovereignty by the myriad forms of 
vegetable life that cluster round his feet. In the centre of 
the river lies a little island, on which stands Prachadee 
Glang Nam — " The Shrine in the Middle of the Waters." 
It is a snow-white spire-crowned edifice, round whose base 
are a number of small quaint structures, the whole forming 
a conspicuous and typical example of the ecclesiasti^ 
architecture of Siam. A broad band of scarlet cloth wrapped 
round the spire, about half-way between the summit and 
the base, by some devout member of the Buddhist faith, 
serves a double purpose in increasing the pictorial aspect 
of the scene^ and at the same time in indicating that the 
teachings of the wise and noble Gautama, in whose honour 
the building was erected, have here retained some of their 
power over the lives of the inhabitants. The King of Siam 
is the last of the various independent sovereigns who have 
professed their belief in the words of the great teacher 
whose outward symbol of humility was the beggar's yellow 
robe. The neighbouring countries of Annam, Cochin-China, 
Cambodia and Burmah, now owe allegiance to a foreign 
government, and their sovereigns, who once bent the knee 
before the altars of Buddhism are dead or deposed. The 
only remaining independent Buddhist monarch is H. M. King 



Chulalongkorn, and here in the centre of the great high- 
way of his country, at the very gate of his kingdom, stands 
this fair white temple to the honour of the ancient sage. 
Boats of many shapes and sizes cross and re-cross the 
path of the steamer as it makes its way along the winding 


course, but not until the vessel is anchored amid stream 
is it possible lo fully appreciate the unique appearance of 
the scene. Along each bank are the floating houses made 
of teak and plaited bamboo, and thatched with the long 
spear-like leaves of the attap palm. Their gabled ends, best 
understood from the illustrations, are of a form peculiar 


to this land alone, and are repeated monotonously on every 
dwelling. The houses stand upon pontoons, or else upon 
rafts which are made of numerous stems of the bamboo 
tree or the areca-palm, tightly bound together in bundles. 
Each bundle is more or less free from the others, so that 
as the floating foundation gradually rots away, the raft can 
easily be removed and then replaced piece by piece with- 
out disturbing the equilibrium of the dwelling itself. The 
rafts are loosely moored to several stakes driven deep in 
the bed of the river, and rise and fall with the tide. The 
house is closed in front by a number of planks of wood, 
which are removed in the day-time for the admittance of 
light and air. It bears in front a little platform or verandah, 
often railed in to prevent the younger members of the 
family from falling into the swiftly flowing stream beneath. 
This uncovered platform serves many purposes. It is here 
in the early morning, and again in the evening, that the 
family may most often be seen enjoying the luxury of a 
bath. Men, women, and children come to the edge of the 
platform, take up water from the river with brass basins 
or wooden buckets, and then pour it over head and 
shoulders, thus drenching both themselves and clothes at 
the same time. Here, too, the dealers display their wares — 
the giant fruit of the durien plant, which is described by 
Alfred Russell Wallace as being a combination of straw- 
berries and cream, nectar and ambrosia, ripe pears and 
ice cream, but which to the uninitiated suggests more truth- 
fully the presence of exceedingly defective sanitation; 



the mangosteen, a pearl amongst fruits, delightful to eat 
and to behold, a snow-ball in a casket of crimson ; mangoes ; 
fresh green cocoa-nuts filled with delicious, refreshing milk ; 
bananas of countless varieties; sugar-cane ready skinned 
and cut in small pieces for the youngsters, who think it 
the sweetest of sweetmeats ; young bamboo stems, rivalling 
asparagus when properly cooked; cheap tin and trumpery 
from Birmingham, Manchester, or Germany; silks from 
China and Bombay; occasionally buffalo-horns; tiger-skins; 


black monkeys with white beards ; green parrots ; lamp-oil, 
and joss sticks; and a host of small and inexpensive 
articles (being the produce of many countries of the globe) 
that are likely to find ready purchasers amongst a people 
of simple tastes and small means. Very often in the evening 
when the sun is getting low, the family take their evening 
meal out of doors on the same verandah. When the meal 
is over they still squat upon the floor, smoking huge 
cigarettes of rank tobacco wrapped in the leaf of the banana, 
and exchanging occasional words or greetings with some 


friend or acquaintance passing homewards in his boat 
These floating structures are comparatively clean, cool, 
and comfortable, and possess one great advantage over a 
fixed dwelling upon land, in the fact that, provided the 
house is the property of the tenant, he may remove to a 
new locality without any of the inconvenience of an ordi- 
nary removal, by the simple process of shifting at the same 
time both his habitation and all that it contains. It is an 
amusing and not uncommon sight to see a father and his 
family, aided by a few muscular friends or relatives, tugging 
away at ponderous shovel-shaped oars, fastened fore and 
aft, as they pilot their house through a crowd of smaller 
craft on their way to settle in some more desirable or 
convenient locality. 

Behind the floating houses, either situated on the banks 
or overhanging the water, are houses built on piles. They 
are raised sufHciently high to escape the floods that come 
with the rainy season. Their general construction is the 
same as that of the floating dwellings, but as their inhabi- 
tants throw most of their rubbish into the space between 
the ground and floor instead of into the river, they are 
by no means such healthy habitations as those that float 
in the river below. 

In the river are moored the coasting steamers that carry 
the rice of Siam to Singapore or Hong-kong, that transport 
lean cattle to the Malay States and Archipelago, and bring 
back goods of European or Asiatic manufacture, as well as 
thousands of Chinese coolies for the labour market. There 


are great Norwegian sailing vessels taking in teak, and 
tank steamers discharging kerosine oil. 

Chinese junks and <* lighters" pass slowly by with heavy, 
yellow, mat-like sails, bearing cargo to the island in the 
gulf, where it will be transferred to the larger steamers. 
On the prow of every junk is painted a big wide-open eye, 
whose powerful optical properties are supposed to aid the 
vessel in steering a safe and speedy course. Says the 
Chinese maritime philosopher, " No have got eye ; how can 
see?" There are no Siamese junks or steamers, for the 
trade of the country is in the hand of foreigners, who, for 
commercial purposes, use either the steamers that owe their 
design and construction to modern invention, or else the 
huge unwieldy junks that the conservative Chinese crews 
would be exceedingly loth to relinquish. 

The teak that is exported, is sent down to the capital 
from the northern forests in the Shah uplands around 
Chiengmai, bound together in cumbersome rafts. After passing 
through the perilous rapids of the Meping, they are stopped 
at the Customs station at Raheng, and duties are there levied 
upon them. They are then allowed to drift with the current 
and are steered with a number of perforated, rudder-like oars 
fastened at both ends of the raft. In the centre there is 
always a little temporary hut rudely fashioned out of a few 
branches and leaves. Some member of the crew will gen- 
erally be found taking a comfortable nap therein. 

Fiery little steam-launches tear across the river, whistling, 
shrieking, rushing like so many water fiends, half swamp- 



ing or upsetting many of the smaller boats in their swell. 
Tiny mites of children paddle freely and easily along in 
tiny cockle-shell canoes, without any signs of fear or hesi- 
tation. They easily avoid the big ** fire-boat," and guide 
their craft into the swell in order that they may enjoy the 
fun of riding upon the miniature waves. The most common 


form of boat to be seen on the river is the native gon- 
dola, or **rua-chang". It is used for purposes of business 
or pleasure, but it is rapidly losing its popularity as a 
ferry boat owing to the introduction of the more rapid 
little steam-launches. Both sexes are employed as gondo- 
liers. They stand to their work with one foot upon the 
edge of the boat. Their oars are fastened loosely to a 


small piece of wood near one end, and the boat is propelled 
with long graceful sweeps of the oar, by a method that no 
European has ever yet been able to acquire. They turn 
about with amazing rapidity, or preserve a straight course 
from point to point, with but little apparent effort on the 
part of the boatman, and with no seeming variation in the 
movement of the oar. As a matter of fact, the whole 
work of steering or of turning is done by a peculiar twist 
given to the oar at the end of the stroke, but so deftly 
is the motion made that in the smaller boats it is practi- 
cally invisible. The ease and gracefulness with which the 
Siamese gondolas skim across the waters, is in pleasing 
contrast to the ugly jerky motion of the boats that serve 
the same purpose in the rivers and harbours of China, 
and represents a degree of skill on the part of the oars- 
men, probably unattained by any other boatmen in the 
world. Long "dug-outs", mere hoUowed-out trunks of 
trees, sunk to the water's edge with a heavy freight of rice, 
fruit or vegetables, are paddled along by two men, one at 
each end. They squat on their haunches on flat projecting 
ends whose superficial area is about eighteen square inches. 
In the early morning, the priests paddle themselves from 
house to house in long narrow canoes, with their alms- 
bowls deposited on the floor in front of them, for when 
they put on the yellow robe, they do not put off their 
aquatic attainments. 

Moored in every available inch of space are the house- 
boats in which thousands of the inhabitants spend the 


whole of their lives. They are born in the boat, are 
reared aboard, and are only taken permanently ashore 
when life is ended. Generally speaking, these houseboats 
are wide in the beam, and possess a deck whose planks 
are removable in order that cargo, clothes, and provisions 
may be stored underneath. In the centre is the house, 
consisting of the deck for a floor, and an elliptical plaited 
rattan shell for walls and roof. A small sliding framework 
of light wood or matting projects from one end of the 
house to the stern end of the boat, and bears a number 
of removable curtain-like frames around the sides, so that 
the steersman is well protected from wind and rain. In 
these boats a whole family may be gathered together, from 
grandfather to grandchild. There is but little room for 
exercise, and they sleep close together, side by side, like 
sardines in a box, yet they always seem happy and con- 
tented. Every home contains a small altar to Buddha, 
with a seated image of the saint himself placed thereon. 
This they delight to decorate with flowers and bundles of 
incense sticks placed in blue and white china vases. The 
poorest always manage to spare a few coppers on festive 
occasions to re- decorate and adorn their domestic idol. If 
there are any Chinese on board, their presence is indicated 
by a number of red prayer-papers bearing mystic symbols 
in black and gold, stuck here and there upon the roof and 
walls of the cabin. 

Rice is brought from many places inland, in a boat of 
very similar appearance and construction, but in this case, 


there is practically no room for anyone but the crew, as 
the central house-like portion is filled to the roof with 
the valuable grain. Round the edge of the boat, through 
its entire length on both sides, runs a projecting ledge 
about a foot wide, along which the men walk when they 
find it necessary to pole their way through shallow water. 
The external appearance of the boat is materially improved 
by varnishing it with a common native compound that 
gives to the wood a bright reddish-brown hue. All such 
vessels are made in the country from woods found in the 
native forests, for the people are as clever in building 
boats as they are in propelling them. A great part of 
the amphibious population is not resident in the capital. 
The people live in the country where they till the fields 
that lie on the banks of the rivers or canals, in those 
places where the jungle has been cleared. There they 
anchor their homes until the time of harvest, when they 
gather in the fruits of their labour and then proceed 
leisurely south. On arriving at Bangkok, they dispose of 
their cargo, take a short holiday, visit their friends, see the 
sights of the city, and finally return to their fields, gardens, 
orchards again, taking with them quantities of kerosine oil, 
cheap prints, matches, and many small articles of domestic use. 
The water population is complete in itself, and is perfectly 
independent of its terrestrial neighbours in every way. It 
has not only its own houses and shops, its water omnibuses 
and hansoms, but even its floating restaurants and pedlars. 
The restaurant is contained in a fairly small canoe, but it 



is surprising what a quantity of cooking apparatus and 
what a varied assortment of food the chef manages to 
carry. He passes from house to house, from boat to boat, 
boiling and cooking as he goes, and easily disposes of his 
curries and boiled rice. 

The river has its own police, with duties corresponding 
to those of their brethren ashore, but they wear, instead 


of a battered helmet, a neat white or blue cap, on whose 
black ribbon is printed in gold letters the words that de- 
scribe their particular functions. Both the water and the 
land policemen are called "polit", the word being a 
modification of our own word "police" according to a 
rule of pronunciation in tlie native language, according to 
which all final consonants of the nature of *s' are pronounced 
as *t'. 


There is a water market, but unlike the land market 
which remains open all day, this one opens and closes 
before the sun has risen very high. Scores of boats are 
massed together in one compact crowd. Each boat is sunk 
to the gunwale with piles of fruit or fish. The occupants 
barter and bargain with the same incessant deafening noise 
of shouting, laughing, and swearing that is characteristic 
of all markets the world over. The women wear flat-topped 
hats made of leaves, which slope outwards from the crown, 
and are stuck on their heads by a circular frame-work of 
cane placed inside. Boats pass in and out of the crowd 
without accident or trouble, and though not an inch of 
water is to be seen from the edge of the throng, the 
market gardeners, fishermen and florists never lose any of 
their merchandise as they move in some mysterious fashion 
from one spot to another. 

Even if a boat were upset, nothing more serious than 
the loss of its freight would be likely to occur. The 
owner would never be drowned. He would simply turn his 
vessel over again, climb over the side, and paddle off" home. 
Yet many of these canoes are so light and small, and float 
in such a condition of unstable equilibrium, that no European 
could either get into one of them, or, if the boat were held 
until he were seated, take a couple of strokes in one without 
falling overboard. There is, however, only the remotest 
possibility of any native being drowned as the result of 
being capsized, for the whole nation may be described as 
a nation of swimmers. Whether in the water or on the 


water they are in perfect safety. Little children, long before 
they can walk, are thrown into the water by their mothers, 
who fasten under their arms a tin float that always keeps 
the head above water. The wee brown dots splash and 
splutter about in the lukewarm current of the river, involun- 
tarily learning the correct action of the limbs in swimming, 
and gaining an acquaintance with this element that ever 
afterwards prevents any feeling of fear. In this way many 
children learn to swim almost as soon as, if not before, 
they can walk. 

The boys early learn to paddle their own canoes, and 
they have invented a number of water games that are 
possible only among children educated in this fashion. 
Occasionally a party of them will get into a long narrow 
boat, and crowd together until the water is just on the 
point of entering. Then with a few gentle strokes with a 
paddle, they urge it forward, the water flowing in with every 
stroke. As soon as they feel it sinking beneath them, they 
roll out into the canal or river, turn the canoe up again, 
slowly but deftly climb in one by one, and then off once 
more to repeat the fun. 

At certain seasons of the year boat races are held at the 
little island at the mouth of the river, on which stands the 
temple previously described. In these races no considera- 
tion is paid to "fouls." The object of each crew is to reach 
tne winning-post first, and any crew is allowed to prevent 
its opponents attaining that desirable end, by any means 
they care to employ. The consequence is that the first 


part of the race resolves itself into a series of "ramming" 
manoeuvres. There is a fierce struggle between the rival 
crews who try to upset each other. The intensest excite- 
ment prevails amongst the spectators as two boats near 
each other, and they watch the manoeuvring with breathless 
interest until one of them is upset, when cheers break out 
in encouragement of the winners, who strain every nerve 
to reach the goal before their opponents can once more get 
aboard their craft and so continue the contest. Women as 
well as men take part in the sports, both sexes being equally 
skilful in any sport or amusement of an aquatic nature. 

Soon after sunset the river clears considerably, for these 
water-folk rise and retire with the sun. They shut up the 
front of their houses, and then lie down to sleep through 
the long hot night as peacefully and securely in their 
floating cradles as any of those who live upon land. 



The lives of the children of the East are surrounded by 
a number of time-honoured rites and ceremonies of an 
imposing but superstitious character. The infant is a priceless 
gift from the beneficent gods, and its life must be ordered 
in accordance with the curious superstitions invented of old 
by the legendary deities of its forefathers. The infant is 
at once a source of pride, for it is a mark of heavenly 
favour, and of hope, for it shall, if good luck befall it, 
hand down its father's name unto another and a later 
generation. Whatever ritual has been devised aforetime as 
tending to bring long life and prosperity unto the new-bom 
child, must therefore be observed with great pomp and 
careful attention to minute but important details. And 
lastly, the Oriental child causes its parent to reveal certain 
features in his character that otherwise lie hidden and 
unobserved. The fiercest Hindoo is the most tender-hearted 
of men when his little loved one lies sick; the fat, stolid, 
wooden-headed Chinaman becomes a lively youngster himself 
as he tosses his crowing chuckling babe aloft; and the 
genial, gentle Siamese is never so winning as when caress- 


ing the hope of his house. Siamese children exhibit in their ear- 
lier days the best qualities of their race to a very high degree. 
The Hindoos instituted ten "samskaras" or rites, the 
due performance of which, was supposed to ensure to the 
child freedom from all evil influences. Now the original 
Siamese as they travelled south from the slopes of the 
Tibetan mountains, came into contact with the Hindoo 
civilisation and religion, and adopted therefrom their religious 
beliefs and many of their social customs. Owing to the 
absence of reliable written historic records in Siam itself, 
the mass of the people have long since forgotten where 
and how most of their ceremonial practices originated, but 
the learned amongst them have little difficulty in pointing 
out both their primary source and their latter-day modifi- 
cations. The ten auspicious rites that encompassed the 
life of the Hindoo child, began with its birth, and ended 
with one imposing pageant more important and far-reaching 
in its effects than any of the nine that had preceded it, and 
marking very definitely the end of the period of childhood. 
One month after birth occurred the ceremony of shaving 
the first few hairs of the new-born, and about the same time, 
a rite somewhat similar to that of christening was observed, 
when the child received its first but temporary name. 
These two ceremonies still exist in Siam, but six of the 
original ones have disappeared. Amongst those that have 
thus been lost are the rite of ear-boring, which occurred 
about the third year and which still survives amongst the 
Laos and the Burmese; the rite of training the child to 


eat rice ; the rite of teaching the first foot-steps ; the rite of 
speaking the first words ; the rite of first putting on the loin- 
cloth ; the rite of taking the first lessons in swimming, which 
was reserved for princesses ; and lastly, the rites of shaving 
the top-knot and the subsequent investiture of the sacred 
thread, which form the final links in the chain of ceremo- 
nial practices devoted to the little ones. 

It is obviously impossible therefore to pretend to give 
any adequate account of the people of this land, without 
first treating of the life and character of her children, on 
whose behalf the favour of the spirits of good are so fre- 
quently and carefully besought by their anxious parents. 
Considering the number of ritualistic observances that have 
occurred through successive generations, with the object of 
obtaining for the young the good-will of the angels, it might 
reasonably be supposed that if the numerous prayers had 
been in any way effective, by this time the present gen- 
eration of children should be enjoying untold benefits, and 
should be leading lives far superior in their freedom from 
ordinary mishap or pain, to those of children not similarly 
descended. It would puzzle any observer, however, to dis- 
cover in what way they are more tenderly cared for by 
the celestial dispensers of desirable things, than are other 
children. They cannot be described as differing in any very 
essential particulars from their little brothers and sisters in 
other lands. It is true that they have not the keen per- 
ception of truth, the chivalrous sentiment of honour, or the 
dogged industry which are common to some extent to most 



European children ; but they have a respect for the aged, for 
their parents, and for all those set in authority over them that 
might well be copied by the democratic children of the West. 
In their behaviour towards their parents and their priests they 
stand as excellent exemplars of reverence and obedience. 
The respectful manner they adopt in their dealings with 
all who may be presumed to control them, renders the 
work of any teacher in Siam a moderately light one. Insub- 
ordination or impertinence is unheard of. The oft-debated 
question of corporal punishment is here solved by the 
character of the children themselves. Schools can be managed 
without canes, hard words, or severe punishment of any 
description. Discipline, the first and chief goal that the 
European teacher strives to obtain, is here produced by 
merely wishing for it. The term "kroo" or "teacher" is 
a title that commands respect from parents and scholars 
alike, and they invariably use it in addressing him on all oc- 
casions and in all places whether public or private. The 
only teachers for years were the priests, even as the majority 
are to-day, and it seems as though in transferring the 
office of pedagogue from priest to layman, they have 
transferred also a portion of that atmosphere of reverence 
that is ever associated with the priesthood. The Siamese 
in this respect may be said to have reached a higher level 
than their whiter brethren, inasmuch as they recognise in 
an outward and visible manner, that the teacher of religion 
and the instructor of the young are both engaged in the 
same grand work of mental and moral progress. 


Siamese children, especially the little girls, are exceedingly 
pretty, rivalling, if not excelling, all the other beauties of 
the East, Japan included. They are very merry, continually 
contented, easily pleased and most unselfish in their dealings 
with one another. Their almost absolute lack of selfishness 
is one of the most pleasing features in their very lovable 
characters. The boys at school lend their property to their 
fellow-scholars with the greatest readiness. Watches, knives, 
pencils, and other schoolboy treasures circulate sometimes 
to such an extent that one is inclined to fancy they must 
be common property; and, greatest test of pure good- 
nature, they even lend their bicycles to each other. 

They are, however, early tainted with the national vices, 
vices that flourish more particularly in hot climates and 
luxurious soils. It will be wise, however, to make no attempt 
to describe these more mature characters until some one 
can lay down a code of moral virtue which shall be abso- 
lutely applicable to all people at all times. It will be safer 
to consider only the younger children at a time of life 
preceding the period when sensual enjoyments begin to 
enchain both mind and body. 

Upon the birth of the child, a big fire is made by the 
side of the mother, who at this time forsakes her bed and 
lies on a long narrow flat board. A fruit supposed to 
possess protective properties is scattered round or under 
the house, and a cord is twined round the exterior of the 
dwelling, which has been blessed by the priests and which 
also serves the same purpose of keeping off those evil 


spirits who would otherwise enter and carry away the life 
of the child. The interior of the room is like a furnace, 
and it is to be feared that under these conditions, the evil 
spirits that haunt the sites of defective ventilation do only 
too often accomplish their fatal object. For three days, 
several old women attend the mother and make offerings 
to the powers whose influence is beneficial. This they do 
by making three balls of rice and then throwing them in 
three lucky directions. It is said that every new-born babe 
bears as its first name the word ''Dang'\ which means 
"red". If this be so, then the mother or nurse speedily 
turns her attention to the best means of rendering the 
term singularly inaccurate, for instead of allowing the child 
to retain its original and natural colour, she immediately 
rubs it all over with a yellow paste whose chief constituent 
is turmeric powder. The baby presently appears as if it 
were suffering from a very severe and expansive attack of 
jaundice. This process of * yellowing * is popularly supposed 
to keep away mosquitoes. It is not confined to red babies, 
but cats and dogs may often be seen who have received 
the same treatment. It is a common sight to see a couple 
of toddling yellow children engaged in teasing or amusing 
an equally yellow specimen of the canine or feline family. 
For several years no clothes are worn, so that their health 
is never injured or their comfort marred by unsanitary 
garments. They are frequently adorned with massive gold 
or silver bracelets and anklets, and wear a little silver 
shield fastened in front of the body by a string of beads 



passed round the loins. The shield is merely an ornament 
and plays no indispensable part in their metallic apparel, 
for when it is once lost, it is seldom replaced, though the 
string of beads may persist for some months afterwards. 
The amount of wealth possessed by the poor in the shape 
of ornaments must be enormous, for almost every child 
bears somewhere on its body a heavy piece of gold or silver. 
Until the child can walk it passes its life under the same 
system of treatment usually accorded to human beings at 
this tender age. It is nursed and petted by its mother, 
talked to, made a fuss of, presented to uninterested visitors, 
and generally tormented by the same excess of demon- 
strative affection which mothers of every colour lavish upon 
their own offspring. At a very early stage in its existence 
it is transferred with solemn ceremony from the wicker 
basket in which it has lain since its birth to a cradle 
peculiar to Siam. The cradle consists of a strong oblong 
rectangular frame-work at the top and a flat narrow board 
at the bottom. The two are connected round the four 
sides by a network made of strong twine. It is suspended 
from the rafters of the roof by four strong cords. It is swung, 
not rocked, and the mother or sister of the babe will sit 
tailor-fashion on the floor for hours at a time contentedly 
chewing betel-nut, or chanting monotonous Siamese Grego- 
rians in a low plaintive tone, at the same time swinging the 
cradle gently to and fro by a long rope. When the baby 
is taken for an airing it is carried by some female member 
of the household, who places it on her hip and supports it 


with one arm. This method of carrying the child is said 
to be a healthy one for the baby, but it must be a fairly 
unhealthy one for the nurse, who has always to walk at 
an angle with the ground, suggesting the appearance of 
the Tower of Pisa, while the baby is wedged, cross-legged, 
between the firm pressure of the supporting arm and the 
bended body. 

Passing over the period which elapses between lying in 
the cradle and learning to walk, we next find these little 
Eastern street-arabs following their own sweet wills in the 
roads and alleys or on the canals of their native town or 
village. They are perfectly free and independent, and are 
given up to the educative influence of Nature in a way 
that would have satisfied Rousseau himself. The boys still 
remain unclothed; they scamper along the roads, driving 
young bullocks ; sit on the backs of tame buffaloes as they 
plough the rice fields ; steal bananas ; climb trees for cocoa- 
nuts ; smoke enormous cigarettes ; paddle their own canoes ; 
never bother their heads about getting home in time for 
meals ; lie down in shady places to rest ; never read books ; 
do not know the inside of a school, and spend the whole 
day according to their own ideas of amusement. If they 
want to play, they play ; if they desire to sleep, they have 
but to lie down in the first convenient spot, when they 
attain the desired condition with a rapidity that is to be 
greatly envied. Gloves, ties, collars, neat pockets, untorn 
coats, unsplit boots and other abominations never cause 
the Siamese boy a moment's anxiety. If he wears any hat 


at ally it is a nice light roomy sort of structure discarded 
by its original owner several years before, and in such a 
condition of decay, that an occasional fall into the water 
or mud does not affect either its value or its usefulness. 
At a later date he begins to wear clothes. He dresses 
like his sister, wearing a cool airy garment consisting of a 
single long strip of cloth of some bright colour, fastened 
round the waist and draped about the legs. It hangs loosely 
about the knees and resembles a pair of knickerbockers. 
There are no buttons, tapes, pins, or suspenders, and he 
requires little training in the art of fixing his single garment 
so that it will remain permanently in the required position. 
He wears no shoes or stockings, the use of such luxuries 
being restricted to the upper classes. The upper half of 
the body is left bare, except when, in accordance with a 
fashion of very recent date, a white linen jacket is worn. 
All girls wear either this jacket or else a coloured scarf 
wrapped tightly round the breast. The smarter ones wear 
both scarf and jacket, but amongst the lower classes, the 
majority of the women leave their bodies uncovered above 
the waist after the birth of the first child. All ranks of 
society are passionately fond of finery, and adorn them- 
selves as well as they can possibly afford. The native rings 
are set with native stones, but the workmanship is very 
rude. When money is not available for the purchase of 
jewellery, flowers are obtained. As their clothes possess no 
collars with button-holes in which the floral decorations can 
be placed, they stick them behind the ear. 


A day's life with one- of these children is spent after the 
following fashion. He rises at early dawn and goes at once 
to the nearest water to bathe. He has no acquaintance 
with soap, but pours abundant water over himself with basin 
or bucket. The refreshing operation finishes with a plunge 
in the stream, after which he either lies down, or runs 
about till he is dry. A breakfast of rice, salt fish, and 
fruit, eaten from brass or earthenware dishes, with his fingers, 
is the prelude to the day's enjoyment. He next devotes all 
his energies to getting through the day. He accomplishes 
the task set before him by alternate intervals of sleep or 
play. He is a faithful disciple of Isaac Walton. A bit of 
stick and a fibre of rattan are sufficient tackle with which 
to capture a few fish out of the thousands that swarm in 
the waters. At low tide, when many of the canals are 
mere valleys of mud, a whole tribe of children descend 
into the slimy deposit, and push coarse sieves into the 
mud in the attempt to catch prawns. The captured crea- 
tures are placed in stone jars. When weary of the sport, or 
when the jar is filled with prawns, they vary the nature of 
their amusement by pelting each other with mud. It is 
simply snow-balling transformed. They stand about in the 
slippery mess, and make little pellets of soft mud. These 
they fling at each other with an aim remarkable for its 
invariable accuracy. When sufficiently tired and dirty they 
get away to the nearest water, take a turn or two, and 
then come up to dry. 

They delight in witnessing extreme activity in other 


creatures. A cock fight or a general battle amongst the 
pariah dogs is a source of great amusement. At night they 
search for crickets. When they have collected a large num- 
ber they place them, two at a time, in small jars made of 
mud and baked hard in the sun; the two crickets are 
urged to engage in warfare by the skilful application of 
small pointed pieces of wood. The battle which ensues 
evokes their hearty appreciation. They catch fighting fish, 
feed them with mosquito larvae, and then train them to 
fight. After a proper course of training the fish become 
extremely pugnacious, and will even make fierce attacks 
upon their own images as seen in a looking-glass placed 
by the side of the bottle in which they are imprisoned. 
As a general rule, Siamese youths are keen spectators of 
anything of a combative character. And yet amongst them- 
selves they are extremely peaceful and unquarrelsome. 
Supposing them all to be sent to school, it may be safely 
predicted that there would be fewer fights in a whole genera- 
tion of scholars than an English school knows in a year. 
Uncoloured pictures have no charm for them, for an 
ordinary drawing in black and white is utterly incompre- 
hensible to them. All native drawings, with their strange 
disregard of the laws of perspective, are executed in colours. 
They do not instantly recognise photographs of the streets 
and buildings with whose appearance they are perfectly 
familiar, and they will as often as not view them upside 
down. The power to appreciate black and white is, however, 
merely dormant, as is shown by the fact that the few 


children who attend the Anglo- Vernacular schools speedily 
learn to take an intelligent interest in the drawings and 
reproductions of photographs published in the English 
illustrated papers. 

They are very clever in the art of making bouquets and 
weaving garlands of flowers. On festive occasions, the 
houses are festooned from end to end with long rope-like 
strands of small blossoms fastened together with wonderful skill. 

On every head a little tuft of hair is allowed to grow in 
the centre of a shaven crown. This is removed at a certain 
period, with an imposing and important ritual. 

They make excellent scholars, for they are very bright 
and intelligent Only a mere handful of the population 
attend any school regularly, but all those who hope to 
obtain any Government employment must at least learn to 
read and write. Those that do attend the schools learn 
to draw accurately and neatly after very little practice. 
They need no teaching with regard to modelling in clay, 
their representations of elephants in particular being beyond 
criticism. All ordinary school subjects are rapidly acquired 
by them, and they are adepts in the acquisition of a foreign 
language. They learn to read, write, and speak English 
in the Anglo- Vernacular schools in about three years, with 
great ease and fluency. Many boys will speak in English 
concerning the common events of their daily lives after a 
few months' tuition. They are helped in this matter by 
their wonderfully retentive memories which enable them 
to remember a large number of words and idioms. 


There is no ''esprit de corps" In any school, unless it is 
cultivated by the master in charge. It can be easily developed 
up to a certain point for just the same reason that the adop- 
tion can be ensured of certain rules and maxims in the 
schoolboy's code of honour, not so much on account of the 
intrinsic value of the maxim or the rule itself, as because 
it has been put before them as a European custom. It is 
therefore to be imitated if they wish to appear "up to 
date." In speaking to their teachers, no matter what their 
relative ranks in life may be, they invariably use that form 
of the pronoun " I " which signifies that they consider them- 
selves as occupying a lower position than the person spoken 
to. They abhor long holidays, but like to take odd days 
by fits and starts whenever they feel so inclined. Un- 
punctuality is a common fault unless firmly opposed. 
Cricket and football have been introduced at one of the 
schools and have become fairly popular, but the climate is 
really too hot for such vigorous forms of athletic activity 
ever to flourish except amongst a few enthusiasts. 

Inquisitiveness is politeness, and it is rather bewildering 
to the English teacher new to his work, especially when 
he is constantly questioned as to his age, the price of his 
watch, the amount of his salary, or the date when he last 
had his hair cut. The school satchel does not seem to 
have become popular, most scholars carrying their belong- 
ings tied up in a Manchester-made handkerchief. Boys of 
the higher classes are attended by their servants, who carry 
these articles for them, and at times, even carry the 


owners also. In the intervals of playtime they smoke. 
Each boy carries his own tobacco-pouch, matches, and 
tobacco, and is an adept at rolling cigarettes. They are 
thoroughly unselfish as regards the disposal of their smok- 
ing material, and a cigarette will be circulated amongst a 
group of friends, each one taking a whiff or two and then 
handing it on to his neighbour. If the weed is unfinished 
when the school bell rings, they calmly extinguish it, 
stick it behind the ear, penholder fashion, and return 
to class. 

They are affectionate, cheerful, respectful, delightful fel- 
lows to play with or work with, and offering to the 
observant master many interesting examples of the gradual 
development of mind and character under a rational system 
of teaching. 

In a land where superstitious practices abound, the chil- 
dren are sure to have more than an ordinary belief in goblins 
and ghosts. The belief in divers supernatural beings of 
evil or good intent is powerfully implanted in every adult 
mind. In the case of the children every natural phenomenon, 
every event of their lives is to them under the control of 
some invisible spirit. They have a profound belief in their 
marvellous fairy tales, and many of them never grow out 
of this extreme condition of credibility during the whole 
of their existence. They cling to their mystic interpreta- 
tions of natural phenomena, with such force, that in the 
schools that have been recently founded, the attempts to 
teach the elements of natural science have been made under 



rather disheartening circumstances. The children are perfectly 
certain that thunder is exactly what their name for it 
denotes, "the sky crying." There is a horrible giant of 
great strength and furious temper who leads a very quarrel- 
some life with a cantankerous wife, and when he grumbles 
and growls at her various iniquities, the echo of his voice 


comes in cries from the sky. When in fits of violent anger 
he hurls his ponderous hatchet at his spouse, it strikes 
the floor of heaven, and a thunderbolt falls. When the 
broad flashes of lightning play at hide-and-seek amongst 
the dense black masses of cloud during the wet months 
of the rainy season, they say a woman is flashing a mirror 
in the air, or according to another interpretation^ the angels 


are amusing themselves by striking fire with bricks. The 
falling stars are produced when frolicsome spirits in their 
sportive moods pitch torches at each other. When the 
giant crab comes up out of his hole in the deep parts of 
the sea, he bears up the waters on his back, and the tide 
flows ; when he retires again, it ebbs. Sometimes the angels 
in heaven all take it into their heads to have a bath at 
the same time, and as a consequence they splash the water 
over the sides of the bath, and the rain falls. Another 
theory states, however, that the rain is caused by a huge 
fish a thousand miles long, who with his mighty tail 
furiously lashes the waters of the deep. The most poetical 
of all these superstitions is that which ascribes the origin 
of the winds to the voices of the babies who have departed 
this life. 

Not only children, but thousands of the grown-up men 
and women hold firmly to these beliefs in spite of all the 
scientific explanations that are given to them. Quite recently 
a debate was held at the Bangkok Literary Institute on 
"What is the shape of the world?** The ecclesiastical 
portion of the audience, who were mostly natives, fought 
tooth and nail for the flatness of our planet, and though 
one or two of their own countrymen argued very forcibly 
against their notions, when the final vote was taken there 
was quite a large majority opposed to the theory of " round 
like an orange." One of the teachers was giving a lesson 
to his class one day on this very subject. His scholars 
promptly informed him that the world was flat. He further 


learned that it would take two hundred years to travel 
round it at the rate of two hundred miles a day, and that 
somewhere within the circumference of this pancake-shaped 
planet there is a mountain called Mount Meru, which is 
eight hundred and forty thousand miles high, bearing upon 
its summit the realms of heaven. He explained that the 
world was round, and was greeted by the remark, "Why, 
that can't possibly be, for if the world were round the 
water would all roll off." As there are no scientific terms 
in the language, and as all attempts to explain why the 
water did not roll off would have been utterly beyond the 
comprehension of the young minds of his scholars, he was 
rather non-plussed. He did his best, however, and believed 
that, by his earnestness in pressing home his point, he had 
at last made them accept, even if they did not understand, 
the fact. By way of recapitulation at the close of his 
lesson he asked one who had shown intense incredulity, 
"What shape is the world?" The boy stolidly replied, 
"The teacher says it is round." 

In their fairy tales they demand episodes of the most 
marvellous character. An Englishman once read to some 
Siamese boys the story of "Jack the Giant Killer," thinking 
it might interest them. To his great surprise they listened 
with the greatest indifference to his narrative. On being 
questioned as to whether they liked the story or not, one 
boy replied, " It isn't fierce enough ; " and further, by way 
of illustrating what he considered satisfactory in this class 
of fiction, he related how a Siamese hero met the whole of 


his enemies banded together against him in a deep ravine. 
The hero went towards them single-handed, and just when 
the assembled foes were calculating upon a triumphant vic- 
tory, he quietly took up the mountains to the right and 
left of him, in the hollows of his hands, brought them rapidly 
together, annihilated the multitude with one stroke, and 
then unfatigued, replaced the mountains upon their bases 
once more. 

In some cases their superstitions exert a very real in- 
fluence upon their actions. There are many people who 
would never dare to utter the words "tiger" or "crocodile" 
in a spot where these terrible creatures might possibly be 
in hiding, for fear of directing the attention of the beasts 
towards themselves. Another illustration may also here be 
given. One of the students in training at the Normal Col- 
lege for teachers, was absent for some time. On his return, 
the principal spoke to him, calling him by the name he 
had previously been known by. He at once requested that 
his old name should not again be used, and gave a new 
one. On enquiring the reason, it was found he had been 
absent through illness. While lying sick at home, an angel 
had appeared to his mother in a dream and had warned 
her that if her son's name were not changed, he would die, 
as the name he then possessed was an unlucky one for 
him. His name was immediately changed, and he recovered. 
At the same time, his cousin lay ill in the same house, and 
the angel gave a similar warning with regard to this boy's 
name, but the prophetic voice was in this case unheeded. 


and the child died. As there is no registry of births or 
deaths there is practically no trouble in altering a name, 
and in fact, such alterations are of frequent occurrence. 

A few years ago the Siamese Government organised an 
Education Department, with the intention of establishing an 
adequate system of Primary Education, which was to be 
followed in due time by a system of Secondary Education. 
Up to that time the only schools were those in connection 
with the monasteries. In these schools reading and writing 
were taught by the priests. Though their methods were 
illogical and their curriculum narrow, it must never be 
forgotten that most Siamese men can read and write their 
own language, and that the country owes a deep debt of 
gratitude to these monks who did their best according to 
their own theories. These schools must in the future be 
the starting-points for any system of education that would 
pretend to exercise any influence throughout the country. 
The work of the Education Department, as far as progress 
or reform is concerned, has been, so far, in connection 
with the establishment of a Training College for Teachers, 
the founding of four Anglo- Vernacular Schools for boys, 
one of which is a boarding-school, and a boarding-school 
for girls. These have been organised and controlled by 
Europeans and are fairly satisfactory. Attached to the 
Training College is a Practising School, which is the only 
good Vernacular school in Siam. It owes its present excel- 
lent condition to the three Englishmen who have had it 
successively under their charge. But undoubtedly the most 


successful educational institution is the school for girls. It 
has been more than Usually fortunate in possessing a staff 
of teachers possessing brilliant intellectual attainments, great 
professional skill, and a deep living interest in everything 
that tends towards social progress. Unfortunately, the Ver- 
nacular schools have not yet come under European influence, 
and they still preserve their antiquated methods. Only 
about seven or eight of them are directly under the control 
of the Education Department. They possess no furniture, 
and the children sit on the floor. In one school, the head 
master has provided a number of old soap and biscuit 
boxes to act as desks. There are no registers or other 
records. There is a ''code " which contains two standards. 
It takes a boy from three to four years to pass the first, 
and comparatively few ever attempt to pass the second. 
The teachers in these Government Vernacular Schools are 
not priests, though the schools themselves are usually in 
some part of the temple grounds. 

It is to be hoped that in the near future the Govern- 
ment will decide upon a thorough re-organisation of these 
schools, for, when they are properly taught and controlled, 
they will be very powerful for good, the bright and 
intelligent character of the scholars rendering all school 
work eminently successful. 



Of all the ceremonies that attend the lives of Siamese 
children none are so important as those connected with 
the shaving of the top-knot. From their earliest days the 
whole of the hair is shaved off the top of the head, with 
the exception of one small tuft that is never touched until 
it is finally removed with great pomp and ritual. This 
single lock is daily combed, twisted, oiled, and tied in a 
little knot. A jewelled pin stuck through it, or a small 
wreath of tiny flowers encircling it, are its usual adorn- 
ments. The head, as being the crown and summit of the 
human body is held in extreme reverence, and it is con- 
sidered the height of impertinence for one person to touch 
another's head except when necessity demands. Under the 
tuft there lies, according to the Hindoo legend, a micro- 
scopic aperture through which the human spirit finds a 
means of entrance at birth and departure at death, and 
when Ravana, one of the giant kings of Ceylon, once care- 
lessly or caressingly laid the tip of his finger upon the 
hair of the beautiful Vedavatti, she turned to him in direst 
anger, declaring that after such an unwarrantable insult, 


life was no longer possible to her, and that she would 
speedily cut off her abundant and outraged locks and then 
perish in flames before his eyes. 

The ceremony of tonsure is a very ancient one, and is 
found existing in many countries separated from each other 
not only by miles of land and sea, but far more widely 
divided by different religious and social customs. The priests 
of Isis, the Hindoo Siva, the Roman Catholic monks, the 
candidates for admission to the religious brotherhood of 
Peru — are all examples of the extent to which this ceremony 
has been practised in many lands, through many years. 
It figures as a religious observance symbolical of a change 
of life and purpose; it occurred amongst the Chinese 
originally as a sign of subjection consequent upon a change 
of masters; and it exists in Siam as a civil rite termi- 
nating the period of childhood. In all cases it typifies a 
complete change of condition or purpose — it marks a re- 
birth. In the case of Siamese boys, who must shave the 
whole of the head before entering the priesthood, the 
ceremony takes place a year or so before the time when 
they must each, according to their national custom, 
don the yellow robe. Girls lose their top-knot when 
they are about eleven or thirteen years of age. In any 
case it must be removed before they reach the age of 
puberty, and as many of them reach this condition 
before or near the thirteenth year, their parents generally 
keep on the safe side by performing the operation 
when they are eleven years old. The twelfth year is 



inadmissible, as twelve, being an even number, is un- 

When the year has arrived in which it is deemed ex- 
pedient to cut off the carefully tended lock, the astrologers y 
are consulted as to the appointment of a propitious day. 
Now this is an extremely difficult task, for the day chosen 
must be one free from any of the numerous evil influences 
that affect the lives of men. These evil influences have 
been duly studied and catalogued, and include the powers 
of innumerable demons and of death. The day must not 
be one on which sickness is liable to appear ; in the heavens 
above, no constellation bearing a female name must be 
visible; it must not be a day marked in the calendar as 
being likely to be visited by thunderbolts, conflagrations, 
wrecks or loss of life by drowning. Then also it must be 
free from dangers from enemies or wild beasts; or yet 
again, it must not be a day on which a man may expect 
severe punishment from his earthly rulers, or death by 
falling off a tree. 

Even when the auspicious day has been decided after 
long and laborious calculations, and earnest consultations 
of old calendars, there yet remains the necessity of choos- 
ing a particularly lucky moment on the particularly lucky day. 

When all these preliminary details have been satisfac- 
torily settled, the date is announced and preparations are 
made for the celebration of the event with an elaborate 
and mystic ritual. The house of the parents of the child 
is cleaned and adorned, a process it never undergoes ex- 


cept on those occasions when it is the scene of the per- 
formance of religious ceremonies. A table is placed to 
receive the numerous offerings which will be freely made 
on the auspicious day, and a gilded image of Buddha is 
placed reverentially on an altar and surrounded with cande- 
labra bearing waxen tapers, with incense sticks in china 
vases, with wax flowers and the sacred vessels used during 
the celebration. Around this decorated altar a hallowed 
circle is formed with certain utensils deemed especially 
important and holy. It includes within its circumference, 
a bench or table on which are placed several vessels of 
gold and silver, and the bowls of water which will be after- 
wards consecrated by means of a number of formulae recited 
by the priests from the sacred Buddhist or Brahminical 
texts. The mystic conch-shell, and the shears and razors 
complete the holy ring. There are three pairs of scissors, 
the handles of one pair being of gold, of another of silver, 
and of the third of an alloy of copper and gold. On another 
stand about as high as the level of the eye of a man of 
average height, are placed several offerings of dainty food 
in small saucers made of plaited leaves. These are for the 
refreshment and propitiation of the tutelary deities of the 
place, to whom, and to the shades of the dead, the Brah- 
minical astrologers make oblations and prayers at the rate 
of about two shillings and four pence per day. A curiously- 
shaped throne is next erected. It is a raised square dais 
with four slender posts, one at each corner, which lean 
towards each other at the top, and support a frail canopy. 


The whole structure is first covered with white cloth, and 
then draped with curtains of white gauze and cloth of gold. 
It is on this throne that the candidate sits to be bathed 
with consecrated water when the top-knot has been removed. 
During the initial stages of the proceedings it bears a nine- 
storied ps^oda. The ps^oda tapers towards the summit and 
is of very frail material. The corner stays are made of the 
mid-ribs of the plantain leaves, and each stoty is formed 
of strong fibrous leaves. On each stage there are nine 
square dishes also constructed of leaves. They hold a 
number of sweetmeats and foods that are supposed to be 
particularly palatable to the god Ketu. This deity is of a 
kindly and beneficent disposition, and, if properly wor- 
shipped, rewards his devotees by endowing them with long 
life and prosperity. Hence all these preliminary preparations 
in order to entreat his presence on this important occasion. 
Along the corner stays are stuck incense sticks, tapers, 
and flags of a peculiar pattern. The preparations are com- 
pleted by surrounding the whole house with a protective 
cord or thread made of unspun cotton. The thread is 
attached at one end to the dais erected for the monks, 
passes over the altar, is twined round the bowls containing 
the water to be consecrated, is carried round the exterior 
of the house, and is then brought back to the hall, where 
it ends in a small ball, ready to be tied to the top-knot 
of the child. It is supposed to be efficacious in keeping out 
all evil spirits or other influences that would in the absence 
of any such consecrated barrier, force an entrance to the 


hall of ceremonies and render nugatory the performance 
of the various rites. A similar cord may be seen at times 
round the palace or city wails, serving a similar purpose. 
On the appointed day, the floor of the house is covered 
with mats or carpets, and a dais is prepared for the monks 
who are to be present. It is raised above the level on 
which all ordinary mortals will sit, and is covered with fine ' 
white cloth. Pillows with embroidered triangular ends are 
prepared for the monks to lean against, and spittoons, 
bowls of water, and trays of tea-cups and betel-nut are 
placed before each pillow. There are usually seven or nine 
monks, but even when their number is more or less than 
this, it is never by any chance an even one. At the side 
of the platform a gong is hung from a tripod stand. This 
gong plays an important part in the subsequent proceedings, 
for it is used to mark the end of each successive stage 
of the ritual. Every relative and friend is invited, and each 
of the guests is expected to bring a present either of food 
or money. The more people are invited, the more profitable 
does the ceremony become to the candidate and his parents. 
If the people are poor, they can always borrow the gold 
and silver utensils that are required from some wealthy 
friend or relative, for it is the custom on these occasions 
for help to be freely requested and as freely rendered. 
About three or four in the afternoon of the first day the 
monks and friends arrive. As the first monk enters the house, 
one stroke is given to the gong. The arrival of the second 
monk is announced by two strokes, the third by three, and 


so on. It is customary amongst the lower classes to wash 
the feet of each priest on his entrance into the house. A 
basin of water is thrown over his feet, after which they 
are dried with a towel. When the priests are all seated, tea 
is poured out for each of them. While they are refreshing 
themselves the band in attendance strikes up a lively tune, 
the visitors at the same time seating themselves upon the 
floor in readiness for the first item on the official programme. 
In the meantime the child is being robed and otherwise 
adorned. He wears a full gala dress and is loaded 
with costly ornaments. The skirt is of rich brocade, and 
the cape round the shoulders is of gold filigree set with 
precious stones. Heavy gold and jewelled bangles are 
placed upon the wrists and ankles, and armlets of similar 
value encircle the arms. In certain cases a triple gold 
chain is placed over the left shoulder and under the right 
arm. Sometimes the child is so heavily weighted with these 
valuable ornaments that he is unable to walk without 
support. A coronet or wreath surrounds the top-knot. He 
bears in his hands a charm on which are written several 
sentences of protective import. In this way a further pre- 
caution is taken against the intrusions of undesirable visitors 
from the supernatural world. 

Two household priests of the Brahmin faith precede the 
child as he comes forth from the inner apartments to meet 
the assembled guests. They scatter in front of them flowers 
and parched rice as an offering to those celestial beings 
whose favours and influence they desire. Behind these, 


comes another couple, one blowing the conch trumpet and 
the other vigorously agitating the hourglass-shaped tabor. 
A musical outburst greets their appearance, while the smiling 
faces of every one present afford encouragement and sym- 
pathy to the nervous subject of the trying ordeal. The 
child proceeds to the dais, raises his hands, palm to palm, 
to his forehead and bows his head to the ground in obei- 
sance to the monks. He repeats his salutations three times ; 
at the third time, placing his head on a cushion on the floor 
of the dais. He remains in this prostrate condition until 
the end of that portion of the ritual which is celebrated on 
the first day. The priests now take the protective cord in 
their hands, and the monk of highest rank ties the loose 
end of the thread to the top-knot 

Then a member of the family crawls on hands and knees 
to the raised platform, and with bent head and uplifted 
hands, beseeches the monks to recite the five daily precepts 
of abstinence. In a monotonous Gregorian kind o\ chant, 
the assembled priests then intone these five precepts, asking 
Buddha to keep them that day from all destruction of life, 
from thieving, from impurity, from lying, and from intoxi- 
cating liquors. The guests repeat them solemnly after the 
priests, and by so doing bind themselves to a faithful ob- 
servance of them for that day at least. A number of texts 
are next recited by the priests in the same monotonous 
kind of chant. At the end of each text, three strokes are 
given to the gong. When the recital is finished, the can- 
didate rises from his prostrate position and leaves the room 


in the same way that he entered it, the Brahmins scattering 
offerings in front of him, the gongs, conch trumpets and 
band combining in one deafening burst of sound to indicate 
that that day's portion of the ceremonial is over. The texts 
that are recited are regarded by the people as so many 
exorcisms against malignant influences, but their real purpose, 
which has long been forgotten, is more of an instructive 
character, as they were intended by Buddha to teach the 
people what were the evils against which they were to strive. 

The day closes with great merriment. Old friends tell 
their own experiences or those of their children on similar 
occasions; invitations to forthcoming ceremonies are given 
and accepted; every one feasts and smokes, and then a 
theatrical performance takes place that lasts long into the 
small hours of the morning. 

The whole ceremony is now a complex mixture of both 
Buddhist and Brahminical rites, but there is very little differ- 
ence between the parts enacted by the priests of Buddha 
and those of Brahma. The Brahminical priests, however, 
have a special set of chants of their own, and these they 
repeat during the first day's ceremonies. The object of 
their prayers is to entreat a number of their owji super- 
natural beings to grant their approval of all that is being 
done. They appeal to the Devas, and to Siva sitting on 
his porpoise. They cry to Vishnu as he rides on the 
back of the serpent king in an ocean of milk; to the 
four-armed Brahma on his golden swan; to the god of 
the winds riding swiftly in his chariot of clouds; and to 


India on his wonderful elephant with the three and thirty 
heads. They recall to the minds of these deities the past 
existences of the tonsorial candidate. They remind them 
of the good actions he has previously performed, and wind 
up with a powerful and poetic appeal that they will combine 
to endow the subject of their prayers with a long and 
prosperous existence. 

On the morning of the third day, when the actual cutting 
will take place, the monks arrive at a very early hour, 
before the sun has risen, but no gong tells of their arrival, 
nor is any noise of any description permitted, as the spirits 
of ill must not be awakened or allowed to know that this is 
the day of the great event. The priests take their breakfast 
in silence, no band accompanying their repast, with its joyful 
strains. As the hour of dawn approaches, the Brahmins 
lead in the child. As the particular moment, foretold by 
the astrologers, draws near, the Buddhist priests sing songs to 
Buddha, using the Pali, a language which is not understood 
by the people, relating his many triumphs, and by judicious 
praise securing his approval. These songs are thought to 
be extremely efficacious in procuring for the child an 
abundance of good luck in the future. While the singing 
is taking place, the top-knot is divided into three locks, 
each lock being then fastened at the ends. Amulets are 
placed in them, and every precaution is taken to carry out 
the final act of this, the most important, stage of this 
important rite, with the strict observance of the minutest 
detail. Any deviation from the prescribed mode of pro- 


cedure would be fatal to its success. The chanting continues 
until the actual moment has arrived when the hair must 
be severed from the head. At the very moment the chants 
end, the gongs are beaten, and the guest of highest rank takes 
up the gold-encrusted scissors and quickly snips off one 
of the three locks. Then the two most aged relatives of the 
child present, take the other scissors, and cut off the remaining 
tufts. Each of the three in turn pretends to shave off 
the short hairs that are left, after which a skilled barber, 
with a genuine razor, speedily removes the last trace of 
the long-cherished appendage, leaving the head perfectly 
bald. The long hairs are placed in one basin, and the 
short hairs in another. They are afterwards dealt with in 
a manner to be presently described. More chanting and 
gong-beating announce that the performance has been 
successfully accomplished. 

There are still other forms to be gone through, the first 
of which immediately follows the operation of shaving. The 
offering to Ketu is removed from the throne that it has 
occupied up to the present time, and the shaven-headed 
child is seated under the canopy on the exact spot previously 
occupied by the offering to the god. In his hand he holds 
a powerful charm, which he presses tightly to his breast. 
The eldest monk, or else the one of the highest rank, takes 
a portion of the consecrated water and pours it over the 
head of the child. All the other priests follow suit, and 
then comes the turn, first, of the relatives, and lastly, of the 
most distinguished visitors. As the bathing takes place in 


early morning, the air is generally rather cold, and the 
candidate is doubtless very much relieved when the last 
drop of holy water has been thrown over him. 

When the bathing is over, he retires and changes his 
costume for the most gorgeous apparel that his friends 
possess or can borrow. He is dressed in the brightest of 
colours, adorned with jewels, and then returns to his friends. 
His first duty is to feed the officiating priests. This he 
does by first taking to each of them a silver bowl filled 
with rice, firom which he helps each monk to a liberal 
portion, with a carved wooden ladle inlaid with mother 
of pearl. Having served out the rice, he takes trays of 
sweetmeats and fruit, going and returning on his knees, and 
prostrating himself before each monk in turn. Music again 
accompanies the feast, and at its conclusion the priests 
chant a song of thanksgiving, and give their blessing to 
the child. 

In the afternoon another feast is held, followed by a 
purely Brahminical ceremony of peculiar interest. Each 
person, so say these priests, possesses a **kwun.*' It is 
difficult to translate this word into English, and it has been 
variously rendered as "soul," "spirit," "good luck," and 
guardian angel." It is supposed to enter and leave the 
body at different times, and its absence is always indicated 
by the troubles that immediately visit the person whose 
corporeal frame it has vacated. Now at the time of the 
tonsure ceremony, great anxiety is felt, as at this time 
there is great probability that the "kwun" may depart, 


and so leave the unfortunate child a hopeless wreck in 
after life. The purpose of the subsequent ceremonies is to 
recall this mysterious being, should he by any chance have 
departed, and then to fix him so securely in the body of 
the child that ever afterwards he may be sure of possess- 
ing the subtle, fickle phantom. No time is wasted before 
making the attempt to induce the "kwun" to take up a 
permanent abode. A pagoda is erected, and on it are 
placed several kinds of food known to be favoured by 
the spirit. This pagoda, several mystic candle-holders, 
boxes of perfumed unguents, offerings of cocoa-nuts, and 
an auspicious torch are arranged in a holy circle. In the 
afternoon, after the "kwun" has had time to enter the 
charmed ring and satisfy his spiritual appetite with the 
perfumes of the unguents and the foods, the candidate is 
led into the centre of the hall and placed near the pagoda. 
A cloth is thrown over the food in order to confine the 
spirit and prevent him getting away. All the people pre- 
sent, sit down on the floor, forming a circle, with the 
child, the captured "kwun** and the priests in the middle. 
The Brahmins now address the spirit, and in a very earnest 
fashion ask him to come into the child. They tell tales 
to him, and so try to amuse him, and they entreat him 
with flattery, joke, and song. The gongs ring out their 
loudest notes, the people cheer, and the priests pray, and 
only a "kwun" of the most unamiable disposition could 
resist the combined appeal. The last sentences of the 
formal invocation run thus: — 


*' Benignant Kwun 1 * Thou fickle being who art wont to 
wander and dally about 1 From the moment that the child 
wast conceived in the womb, thou hast enjoyed every 
pleasure, until ten (lunar) months having dlapsed and the 
time of delivery arrived, thou hast suffered and run the 
risk of perishing by being born alive into the world. Gra- 
cious Kwun, thou wast at that time so tender, delicate, and 
wavering as to cause great anxiety regarding thy fate ; thou 
wast exactly like a child, youthful, innocent, and inexpe- 
rienced. The least trifle frightened thee and made thee 
shudder. In thy infantile playfulness thou wast wont to 
frolic and wander to no purpose. As thou didst commence to 
learn to sit, and, unassisted, to crawl totteringly on all fours, 
thou wast ever falling flat on thy face or on thy back. As thou 
didst g^ow up in years and couldest move thy steps firmly, 
thou didst then begin to run and sport thoughtlessly and 
rashly all round the rooms, the terrace, and bridging planks 
of travelling boat or floating house, and at times thou didst 
fall into the stream, creek, or pond, among the floating water- 
weeds, to the utter dismay of those to whom thy existence 
was most dear. O gentle Kwun, come into thy corpo- 
real abode; do not delay this auspicious rite. Thou art 
now full-grown and dost form everybody's delight and 

"Let all the tiny particles of Kwun that have fallen on 
land or water, assemble and take permanent abode in this 
darling little child. Let them all hurry to the site of this 

* ^'Chnlakantamangala." Captain GerinL 


auspicious ceremony and admire the magnificent prepara- 
tions made for them in this hall." 

The brocaded cloth from the central pagoda is now removed, 
rolled up tightly and handed to the child, who is told to 
clasp it firmly to his breast and not to let the "kwun" 
escape. Everyone stands up, still forming a ring round the 
candidate. The mystical torch in the centre is lit; the 
Brahmin takes three candlesticks, each containing three 
tapers, and lights them at the central fire. With his palms 
together he raises the nine lights above his head, describes 
with them a circle in the air, and then with the back of 
his right hand, wafts the smoke into the child's face. Each 
person in the surrounding group repeats the same actions 
in turn, and when the last person has finished, the officiating 
priest takes one betel leat from the pagoda. A second and 
a third time is the waving of fire performed, and each time 
a betel leaf is removed fi-om the stand. After the third time 
of waving, the priest replaces the candlesticks, and daubs 
the three leaves with a paste made of the sweet smelling 
oils and other substances on the different stories of the 
pagoda. He extinguishes the nine candles by pinching the 
wicks between the smeared leaves, after which he takes them 
all in his hands, relights them, once more puts out the flame 
and blows the smoke in the child's face. He repeats the 
same mystical operations twice, and at last replaces all the 
candlesticks. He now dips one finger into the dirty leaves, 
and with the paste draws a scroll between the child's eye- 
brows. Milk is taken from the cocoa-nuts in a small spoon, 


and the spoon is presented to each successive layer of the 
pagoda, as though it were taking a portion of each of the 
articles placed thereon. The child drinks the milk, and 
having thus imbibed the food of the "kwun," ensures 
ultimately the "kwun's" permanent residence in his body. 
Around his wrist is fastened a charmed and magic cord to 
protect him from those infernal spirits whose vocation it is 
to tempt the " kwun '* to forsake its home. For three nights 
he sleeps with the embroidered cloth that was taken from 
the pagoda, fast clasped in his arms. If after three days 
nothing unfortunate occurs to trouble him, his future welfare 
is definitely established. 

It now only remains to dispose of^e hairs that were 
taken from the head on the removal of the top-knot. The 
short hairs are put into a little vessel made of plantain 
leaves, and sent adrift on the ebb tide in the nearest canal or 
river. As they float away, there goes with them also, all that 
was harmful or wrong in the previous disposition of the 
owner. The long hairs are kept until such time as the 
child shall make a pilgrimage to the holy Footprint of 
Buddha on the sacred hill at Prabat. They will then be 
presented to the priests, who are supposed to use them for 
the manufacture of brushes for the sweeping of the Foot- 
print; but in reality, so much hair is presented to the priests 
each year, that they are unable to use it all, so they wait 
till the pilgrims have departed, when they consume with 
fire all that they do not require. 

So important to the individual is this ceremony of shaving 


the top-knot, that were it omitted in the case of any single 
person, the unlucky one would believe himself ruled by evil 
influences for the rest of his life, and would unfailingly 
attribute every disaster in after-life to the fatal omission of 
the ceremony. Yet there are many people who have 
neither money themselves, nor friends or relatives from 
whom they can borrow it. Were it not for the kindness 
of the Government, their unfortunate offspring would never 
be able to enjoy the advantages conveyed to them by the 
celebration of the tonsorial ritual. The Government, how- 
ever, holds a public ceremony which is less impressive and 
expensive than the private one, at which all who are too 
poor to afford the cost of the ceremony at home, may have 
their heads shaved by Brahmin priests gratuitously. Each 
child receives also a present of a small silver coin worth 
about two-pence. This public function is held immediately 
after the close of the " Swinging Festival," ♦ and three or 
four hundred people annually avail themselves of the 
opportunity thus afforded them to get their children's top- 
knots removed. 

In the case of children of royal birth, the celebrations 
are of a still more imposing character. The essential details 
are similar, but various modifications are introduced in 
order to emphasise the extra importance of the rite to those 
belonging to the royal family. On these occasions the 
shaven candidate is not bathed upon a mere canopied dais. 
In the court-yard in front of the Royal Palace, a hillock 

* See Chapter X. 



is erected in imitation of Mount Kailasa, the abode of Siva. 
It is a hollow structure, built up of plaited bamboo, 
supported on poles, and covered with tinsel. Upon the 
summit of this artificial hill is a central pavilion beauti- 
fully gilt, elaborately decorated, and adorned with tapestry 
and cloth of gold. A fence of prescribed pattern encloses 
the pavilion. It is an open framework with small rhomboidal 
openings, in each of which is hung a small gilded heart- 
shaped lozenge.. Conical umbrellas with seven tiers occur 
at every two or three yards. There are four pavilions, also 
lavishly decorated, one at each corner of the hill. At one 
side, an artificial grotto is constructed in which the bathing 
takes place. In the walls of the grotto are representations 
of the heads of the horse, the elephant, the lion and the 
bull. Over the entrance appears the head of the hooded 
snake. These heads are connected with the water-main, and 
are so placed that the five streams of water from the five 
mouths all converge to the central spot which the can- 
didate occupies when he takes the bath. The floor of the 
grotto is a miniature lake in which are placed golden 
models of water-beetles, fishes and other aquatic creatures. 
Rare flowering plants and ferns complete the internal 
decorations of the place. A little passage leads thence to 
the pavilion where the young prince or princess will change 
his or her attire on the completion of the ceremony. On 
the ground, four lath and plaster elephants covered with 
tinsel of different colours, face the four points of the com- 
pass. Here and there about the hill is a multitude of 


mechanical toys, plaster casts, waxen flowers, real plants 
and models of animals. The candidate is carried round the 
Palace each day, with an imposing procession of priests, 
members of the amazon guard, soldiers and attendants. 

No other event in the life of any Siamese is celebrated 
with anything like the expense that attends the top-knot 
cutting, except perhaps a funeral. 



Although marriage does not follow immediately after 
the shaving of the top-knot, yet after the important event 
has taken place, both boys and girls are legally entitled 
to marry. In the case of the girls, marriage takes place 
about fourteen, but the men defer their entrance into the 
matrimonial condition until they are about twenty. Every 
girl gets married sooner or later^ so that old maids do not 

There are about as many ways of attaining the state of 
matrimony in Siam as there are in England. Two people 
may fall in love with each other with the consent of their 
parents; they may elope without the consent of their 
parents; or a wife may be bought out and out without 
any real affection existing on either side. In the methods 
adopted to secure this most desirable consummation of human 
happiness, there are several dissimilarities of procedure 
between the East and the West. If a Siamese wishes to go 
through the ceremony of a strictly regular marriage, he 
must be prepared to observe a great deal of formality and 
to experience a great deal of trouble. Should he attempt 


to pay his addresses to the object of his afTections in any 
but the recognised way, he will, if discovered, be suspected 
of improper motives, and will be liable to suffer personal 
chastisement at the hands of the young lady's male relatives. 

A young Siamese who is anxious to join the ranks of 
the Benedicts, first chooses amongst the maidens of his 
acquaintance the particular one to whom he wishes to be 
allied. If he allowed himself to be guided in this matter 
by the counsels given in one of the native books, he would 
consider the reputed character of the lady he desires for 
his wife, and try to discover to which of seven distinct 
classes of wives his beloved belonged. There is nothing 
very remarkable in the remarks of the philosopher who 
has thus catalogued the several classes of women who are 
mated with men, but as his classification throws consider- 
able light upon the power, position, and character of Siamese 
women, it is here given in full. 

I. — Some wives are to their husbands as a younger 
sister. They look to their husbands for approving smiles 
as the reward of their kind and affectionate forethought. 
They confide in him and feel tenderly towards him. And 
when they have once discovered the wish, the taste, and 
the ideas of him whose approval they respect, they devote 
themselves thoughtfully and assiduously to the realisation 
of his desires. Their own impulsive passions and temper 
are kept under strict control lest some hasty word should 
mar the harmony of their union. 

2. — Some wives are to their husbands as an elder sister. 


They watch sedulously their husband's outgoings and in- 
comings so as to prevent all occasion for scandal. They 
are careful as to the condition of his wardrobe and keep 
it always in order for every occasion. They are diligent 
in preserving from the public gaze anything that might 
impair the dignity of their family. When their lord and 
master is found wanting in any particular they neither fret 
nor scold, but wait patiently for the time when they can 
best effect a reformation in his morals and lead him towards 
the goal of upright manly conduct. 

3. — Some wives are to their husbands like a mother. 
They are ever seeking for some good thing that may bring 
gladness to the heart of the man for whom they live. They 
desire him to be excellent in every particular, and will 
themselves make any sacrifice to secure their object. When 
sorrow or trouble overtakes them, they hide it away from 
the eyes of him they love. All their thoughts centre round 
him, and they so order their conversation and actions that 
in themselves he may find a worthy model for imitation. 
Should he fall sick, they tend him with unfailing care and 

4.— Some wives are to their husbands as a common friend. 
They desire to stand on an exactly equal footing with him. 
If ill-nature is a feature in the character of their husbands, 
they cultivate the same fault in themselves. They will 
quarrel with him on the slightest provocation. They meet 
all his suggestions with an excess of carping criticism. 
They are always on the look-out for any infringement of 


what they deem their rights, and should the husband desire 
them to perform any little service for him, he must approach 
the subject with becoming deference or their refusal is in- 
stant and absolute. 

5. — Some wives wish to rule their husbands. Their 
language and manners are of a domineering nature. They 
treat the man as if he were a slave, scolding, command- 
ing, and forbidding with unbecoming asperity. The hus- 
bands of such women are a miserable cringing set of men. 

6. — Some wives are of the robber kind. Their only 
idea in getting married is the possession of a slave and 
the command of a purse. If there is money in the purse 
they are never satisfied until they have it in their own 
grasp. Such wives generally take to gambling and staking 
money in the lottery, or purchasing useless articles. They 
have no care as to where the money comes from or by 
whose labours it is earned, so long as they can gratify 
their own extravagant and ruinous fancies. 

7. — Some wives are of the murderess kind and possess 
revengeful tempers. Being malicious and fault-finding, they 
never appreciate their own homes and families, and lare 
always seeking for sympathisers from outside. They share 
their secrets with other men, using their pretended domestic 
discomfort as a cloak for their own vice and an excuse for 
their greatest misdeeds. 

No young man ever imagines that his beloved will fall 
into any of the undesirable classes, but, deeming her worthy 
in every respect, he seeks her hand. What the young 


lady may think concerning his intentions towards herself 
counts for little or nothing, as the would-be bridegroom 
never consults her; though if he were desirous that she 
should return his affections he could attain his desire by 
purchasing from a fortune-teller or quack, a love-potion, 
which when taken by the maiden would arouse in her the 
most passionate longing to become his wife. He does not 
dare to outrage his national etiquette by asking for her 
hand direct from her parents, but, with all avoidance of 
secrecy concerning the state of his affections, he communi- 
cates the matter to his friends and to the elders of his 
own household. They select a rather elderly woman, who 
must be acquainted with and respected by the girl's parents. 
She pays a visit to their home, and while engaged in 
sipping her tea, gently insinuates the purpose of her call. 
She does this with an art only perfected by long practice, 
gained in many similar missions. The mother rolls up her 
reply in a great many vague expressions, the general tone 
of which can, however, be easily judged by the ambassa- 
dress to be favourable or otherwise. Nothing very decisive 
is uttered on either side, but the old lady on her return 
presents a report upon which after developments arise. If 
the indications are considered favourable, the parents of 
the young man choose from amongst their friends a few 
elderly persons of both sexes, who are respectable and who 
are also intimate friends of both families. They issue in- 
vitations to the selected friends to pay them a visit on a 
given day. Then in a protracted conversation they discuss* 


the match, and decide amongst themselves as to whether 
it is desirable to enter into definite negotiations with the 
other parties or not. Having pronounced for the match, 
they choose a lucky day, and then the committee of coun 
sellors repairs to the home of the young lady's parents. 

These at once understand the object of the visit, and 
receive the visitors with great politeness, setting before them 
trays of tea, betel-nut and tobacco. When a sufficient 
amount of drinking and chewing has been accomplished, 
the elderly people open up the subject of their mission. 
They speak with due respect to the parents, and never 
fail to use exactly the right pronoun that describes their 
relative positions. The slightest hitch in the extremely delicate 
negotiations would be fatal to success. The conversation 
that ensues is of a formal and deliberate character. Says 
one of the visitors, "The parents of — — — having 
ascertained that this is a propitious day, have commissioned 
us to come and confer with you concerning their son who 
at present has no wife. His parents have asked him if he 
had any one in his mind that he would Uke to take for 
his wife, and to whom he could trust his life in sickness 
and his obsequies after death. The young man replied 
that the only person he had in his mind was your daughter 

of the name of . Therefore at the request of the 

parents of this young man, we are here to visit you, the 
highly respected parents of this young lady, that we may 
confer with you in reference to this matter. What do the 
parents say } " 


Then the parents reply after this wise. "Our daughter 
stands high in our affections^ and the young man is also 
much beloved by his parents We have an ancient proverb 
which says, 'Move slowly, and you will gain your object; 
a prolonged effort is usually attended with favourable 
results.* We will consult our relatives on the right hand 
and on the left hand and take their counsel and opinion 
upon the matter. Please call again.^' 

It often happens that some youthful beauty is sought in 
marriage by more than one of her love-sick acquaintances, 
and a choice has to be made. But Phyllis is voiceless in 
this most important matter which so deeply concerns her 
future welfare. Her parents, with due regard to the interests 
of all concerned, settle the point for her after long and 
careful consideration. 

The "go-betweens'* wait for what they consider a reason- 
able time, and then on a lucky day they once more visit 
the lady. The parents of the maiden have by this time 
made up their minds, and if they are favourably inclined 
to the match, they say to their visitors, " We have consulted 
our relatives, and they are unanimously of the opinion that 
if the young man sincerely loves our daughter, and if he 
can place implicit confidence in her as a proper person to 
tend him in sickness, and direct his funeral ceremonies after 
death, then we will no longer .place any barrier to the 
attainment of his wishes. But how is it with regard to the 
ages and the birthdays of the parties? Are they such as 
are suitable to each other?" 


It takes a little while to answer this question. The 
Siamese have a cycle of twelve years, bearing respectively 
the names of the Rat, Cow, Tiger, Rabbit, Major Dragon, 
Minor Dragon, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Cock, Dog and Hog. 
One of their prevalent superstitions asserts that persons 
born in certain years should not marry each other, as any 
union between them would only be fruitful of endless 
discord. Thus a person born in the "year of the Dog*' 
might lead a life of never ending discord with one born 
in the "year of the Rat." When a marriage between two 
persons is contemplated, this important question of the year 
of birth must be referred to a fortune-teller, who, being 
of an obliging disposition, and having a keen eye to business, 
will, for a small fee, generally pronounce that, so far as 
the conditions of birth are concerned, there is "no just 
cause or impediment why the two persons should not be 
joined in holy matrimony." 

This difficulty having been satisfactorily settled, another 
visit follows, when the elders announce the result of their 
visit to the astrologer. "Since birthdays need cause no 
further delay, what shall be said about the money to be 
provided for the young couple to commence business on, 
and the money for building a house for their habitation?" 

It must here be explained that every intending bride- 
groom must either possess a house or signify his willingness 
to erect one. In most cases the new houses are erected if 
possible upon the premises of the bride's parents, so that, 
provided a man has many daughters and plenty of land. 


he may ultimately gather round him quite a small village 
of descendants. 

The girl's parents reply, "We are not in any way rich, 
so that we shall be quite unable to afford much money for 
the purpose you mention. But we should like to enquire how 
much the young man is likely to receive from his parents." 

"That," answer the ambassadors, "depends almost entire- 
ly upon the parents of the young lady." They next suggest 
sums of money which of course vary in amount according 
to the wealth of the contracting parties. So much is put 
down as being for use in trade, and so much for building 
a house. The number of dishes is also specified, that the 
young man's friends will be expected to contribute towards 
the wedding festivities. As a rule, they discuss at the same 
time, the plan of the proposed house, the number of rooms 
it should contain and the quantity of furniture that should 
be provided. When all these details have been finally settled, 
the committee return and report the results of their 

The last preliminary detail is settled by the acceptation 
of the terms of the contract by the young man's parents. 
The fortunate lady is now informed that she is about to 
be married, and the young man is similarly told that he 
may soon call the desired one his own. He is not allowed 
to go near her, or to indulge in any form of courtship, but 
the obliging parents, with every desire to save the pair any 
unnecessary trouble or excitement, themselves convey all 
gifts and messages. During the whole time that elapses be- 


tween the first mention of the marriage until the ceremony 
itself is actually accomplished, the betrothed pair are 
supposed never to meet. They have no opportunity of 
indulging in any of those little marks of affection which 
are supposed to be the especial weaknesses of young lovers. 
They are not allowed to be demonstrative after this fashion. 
Kissing is never at any time common, and even when it 
occurs it seems a very strange operation, for it consists of 
a vigorous sniff made when the nose is pressed against 
the cheek of the one so saluted. The mothers at this time 
guard their daughters with great vigilance, and any approach 
of the lover to his lass would put an end to all his schemes 
for future bliss. 

The erection of the new house is rapidly proceeded with, 
and owing to the frail character of the structure, the work 
occupies but a very short time. All arrangements for the 
wedding are made, and many invitations issued to friends 
and relatives. The money mentioned in the agreement is 
paid over to the parents of the bride. It is called "Ka 
nom," or "the price of the mother's milk*' with which the 
bride was nourished in her infancy. A number of gifts are 
exchanged between the parents, and then the astrologers 
fix the day for the wedding ceremony. 

The wedding partakes of the nature of a feast. On the 
happy day, fruits and sweetmeats are prepared and laid out 
for the guests. Musicians and priests are summoned to the 
festival. The groom heads a procession to the bride's home, 
taking with him presents for his bride and for her father 


and mother. His most intimate friends and a band of 
musicians accompany him. Everyone is in his gayest attire, 
and the crowd is a medley of orange, yellow, saffron, blue, 
pink, scarlet and green. When the bridegroom reaches the 
house he goes to his own new quarters, where he is met 
by a boy, who brings him a tray of betel-nut sent by his 
future wife. At the commencement of the wedding cere- 
mony a screen separates him from the lady, and he is not 
yet allowed to look upon her face. After a certain time 
spent in feeding, the money provided by both parties is 
laid upon the ground. The amount is examined in order 
to test the accuracy and genuineness of the sums deposited. 
If all is in order, they are sprinkled with rice, scented oil 
and flowers. The priests offer up a prayer, the screen is 
removed, and then the couple kneel down to be bathed 
with holy water. The chief elder pours it first over the 
head of the bridegroom, and then over the head of the 
bride, at the same time pronouncing a blessing upon them 
both. Very often the bowing and bathing are dispensed 
with, and the couple are considered as married as soon as 
the money is paid over. No registers are signed, and no 
official record of the event is made. The bride retires to 
remove her wet clothes, but the bridegroom waits till he 
receives her gift of a new suit, in which he speedily 
attires himself. The priests again engage in chanting, and 
the guests return to their feasting until evening, when they 
all return to their homes, with the exception of the bride- 
groom, who hires a band with which to serenade his lady 


love until the small hours of the next morning. As yet 
he has had no conversation with her whatever. 

On the morning of the next day, the priests and visitors 
arrive once more, when all busy themselves in waiting 
upon the monks as they make a hearty and luxurious meal. 
Should this day be a propitious one according to the wisdom 
of the astrologers, the ceremonies close in the evening. A 
respectable old couple who are intimate friends of the 
bride, and are themselves the parents of numerous offspring, 
go to the new house to make all ready for the home- 
coming of the newly married ones. The young man goes 
next, attended by his friends bearing torches. About nine 
o'clock, a crowd of elderly people escort the bride to her 
husband's dwelling, where they soon begin to drink tea and 
chew betel-nut, not forgetting at frequent intervals to give 
to the young people many wise yet -unnecessary counsels. 
If anything should happen of doubtful omen, the bride is 
once more taken home again, for she may not take up her 
residence with her husband except under the most propitious 
circumstances. The end is reached at last, and the kind 
and benevolent friends retire to their homes, and leave the 
newly married couple to make each other's acquaintance. 
Then for the first time do they enjoy the pleasure of each 
other's company, and there can be no doubt, that no friends 
were ever so willingly parted with as those whose footsteps 
are heard last descending the bamboo ladder as they take 
themselves away into the darkness. 

After a few days the groom takes his wife to visit his 



parents. She carries with her several presents, and on 
reaching the house, prostrates . herself to the ground before 
her new relatives. In a few minutes she is raised by her 
mother-in-law, who embraces her and treats her with becoming 
respect and attention. The bride also takes her husband to 


visit her parents, where the same forms of etiquette are 
again observed. 

At every wedding feast there are always three metallic 
plates or dishes containing respectively, Chinese cakes, a very 
highly seasoned kind of mincemeat, and a tray of betel- 
nut. These three dishes were formerly known collectively, 
under the name of ''the betel-nut tray," and so universal 


is the custom of providing them, that the wedding ceremony 
itself is now frequently spoken of by the same name. 

After the birth of the first child the joint stock is pro- 
duced and the young couple are set up in business. Up 
to this time their household expenses have been defrayed 
by the bride's parents. 

Siamese law gives the husband the right to administer 
a little wholesome chastisement to his wife, should he think 
she requires it; but such occasions must be of rare occur- 
rence where the women are so good-tempered, and so 
gentle in their manners. 

The whole ceremony above described is only observed 
in the case of the first or chief wife, who always remains 
the legal head of her husband's household. Other wives 
are merely bought as so much merchandise, all formality 
being omitted except such as attends the payment of the 
purchase money. Polygamy is extensively practised amongst 
the higher classes, but it is controlled in the case of the 
poor by the fact that a man must not have more wives 
than he can keep. Chastity is highly commended by the 
Buddhist religion, but although Buddha censured polygamy 
he did not absolutely forbid it. He did not see his way 
clear to a thorough prohibition of the practice, and even 
admits that if a man's wives are properly acquired, he is 
unable to pronounce it wrong. The practice of only having 
one wife he strongly commends, and looks upon it as a 
form of celibacy. No disgrace of any kind is attached to 
the condition of a subordinate wife, but she does not hold 


a high social position. Very often she inhabits a house 
separated from that in which the head wife resides. Upon 
the death of the husband, her children are legally entitled 
to a share of the property, but they do not share on equal 
terms with the children of the first wife. Then too, a bought 
wife can be sold or given away, while the head wife can 
only be divorced. It sometimes happens that a man sells 
one of his concubines, and she takes her children with her 
if she has any, so that her sons and daughters possess a 
father and a step-faliier both living at the same time. 

There is a very elastic divorce law, and marriages can 
practically be annulled by mutual consent. In such cases 
the wife takes away with her all the property she brought 
to the husband on her marriage, and all she may have 
since acquired either by trade or purchase. She also retains 
possession of the first, third, and fifth children. Great 
respect is shown to the condition of motherhood, a wife 
of low rank with children being of far more importance in 
the family than even the chief wife should she be childless. 

The king, the princes, and most of the noblemen have 
feirly large harems. The late king had eighty-four children 
who were the off-spring of thirty-five mothers. The pos- 
session of a large harem appears to be regarded as an 
honour to the owner, who glories in his property much after 
the same fashion as Western noblemen take great pride 
in their private art galleries or libraries. The king has 
generally one wife who is called the Queen. At the present 
time there are two queens — the First Queen and the 


Second Queen, both of them being half-sisters of the 
reigning sovereign. The women of the royal harem, unlike 
all other Siamese women, are under great restrictions as 
regards their personal liberty. They are known under the 
name of ^'forbidden women", that is, women forbidden 
to leave the palace. They are not permitted to pass beyond 
their prison walls except with special permission, which is 
rarely, and only on occasions of extraordinary importance, 
granted to them. Their quarters are called "The Inside," 
and it is not considered polite in Siamese society to hold 
conversation concerning the place or its inmates. Into this 
region no man but the king ever enters. It is a city of 
women, complete in itself, with its own shops, markets, gaol 
and policemen. Those noblemen or princes who possess 
handsome daughters are only too glad to present them to 
their sovereign, for should their children become favourites 
with their royal husband, honours and promotion will most 
likely fall to them as a natural consequence. The late 
king once remarked that he was not particularly anxious 
to acquire all the youth and beauty of Siam himself, but, 
as so many of her fairest daughters had already been 
presented to him, he could not possibly refuse similar gifts 
in future, as he did not wish to offend any of his subjects. 
The Siamese have several amusing reasons for per- 
mitting a man to have as many wives as he pleases, while 
they refuse to grant a like privilege to women folk. Woman, 
they say, is man's inferior, is under his control, and may 
not be allowed the luxury of possessing two masters. Besides, 


if a woman had several husbands, she would never know 
who was the father of her children, and the children, not 
knowing their own father, might possibly at some time or 
other injure him, or even commit parricide without knowing 
it. And moreover, there is a remarkable difference in the 
several dispositions of men and women ; men, however 
many wives they have, and whatever their feelings towards 
them, would never desire to kill them, but if women had 
more husbands than one, they would wish to put to death 
all except the one they liked best, for such is their nature. 
"There was once on a time a priest, who daily blessed 
a great king, saying, • May Your Majesty have the firmness 
of a crow, the audacity of a woman, the endurance of a 
vulture, and the strength of an ant.' And the king, 
doubting his meaning, said, 'What do you mean by the 
endurance of a vulture ? * And he replied, * If a vulture and 
all other kinds of animals be caged up without food, the 
vulture will outlive them all.* And the king tried, and it 
was so. Then the priest said, * I spoke of the strength of 
an ant, for the ant is stronger than a man or anything that 
lives. No other animal can lift a lump of iron or copper 
as large as itself, but an ant will carry off its own bulk 
of either metal if only it be smeared with sugar. Also I 
spoke of the firmness of a crow, for none can subdue the 
boldness and energy of the crow, however long it may be 
caged. It can never be tamed. And if the king would see 
the audacity of a woman, I beg him to send for a couple 
who have been married but one or two months, and who 


are as yet, deeply in love with each other. First call the 

husband and tell him to take this knife and cut off his 

wife's head and bring it to you, when, as a reward, you 

will give him half your kingdom and make him viceroy. 

And if he will not do it, then send for the woman and tell 

her that if she will cut off her husband's head and bring 

it to you, you will make her your chief queen and ruler 

of all the ladies in the palace.' And the king did so. He 

found a newly married couple who had never quarrelled 

and were deeply enamoured of one another, and sending 

for the husband, he spoke to him as the priest suggested. 

The man took the knife, hid it in his dress, and that same 

night he rose when his wife slept, thinking to kill her, 

but he could not, because he was kind-hearted and reflected 

that she had done no wrong. And the next day he returned 

the knife to the king, saying that he could not use it 

against his wife. Then the king sent messengers to the 

wife secretly, and they brought her to him, and he flattered 

her and enticed her with promises, as the priest had told 

him. She took the knife, and as soon as her husband 

slept, stabbed him, cut off his head, and took it to the 

king. This story shows not only that women are more 

audacious than men, but also that, if anyone entices or 

pleases them, they will plot the death of their husbands, 

which is good reason for not letting them have more than 

one husband." * 

• "The Wheel of the Law". Alabaster. 



It is an easy matter to obtain some idea of t|ie daily 
life and surroundings of the poorer inhabitants of Siam, for 
their houses are such open structures that every enquiring 
eye may gaze therein without any interruption. They spend 
so much of their time, and pursue so many of their employ- 
ments in the open air, that even the most casual observer 
could not fail to rapidly acquire much information concern- 
ing their domestic life and customs. In the case of the 
wealthier classes there is much more privacy. They may 
be described as living also a kind of double life. Their 
houses are divided into two parts ; in one quarter they live 
their own native life after their own native fashion; in the 
other portion an attempt is made to reproduce the European 
style of living. This latter part is the only one shown to 
the European visitor. He is received in a drawing-room 
with tables and chairs, piano and pictures; he dines in a 
room where the dishes are of European pattern, the ser- 
vants have the habits of European waiters, and the menu 
contains only such dishes as are known to be palatable to 
the white man. All the surroundings are of such an un- 


mistakably foreign origin, that the visitor looks in vain for 
any trace of the life and manners of the native in the 
house of his wealthy host. Were he permitted to pass 
beyond the bounds set by modem fashion, he would pos- 
sibly find much to interest and amuse in the real house of 
the native prince or nobleman. As this is more or less 
unusual or impossible, he is forced to seek for his inform- 
ation in those poorer dwellings, which the forward march 
of so-called civilisation has, as yet, left completely untouched. 
The house-boats which represent the original dwellings 
of the people have been already described. The land 
houses are of a very frail and rude character, though not 
without their own charm and picturesqueness when seen 
embedded in bowers of tropical foliage. E^ch house repre- 
sents very strikingly the social grade of its owner, whether 
it be the low hut of the labourer in which a man of aver- 
age height may scarcely stand upright, or the brick and 
stone palace with carpets and electric lights of the prince 
or nobleman. Most of the houses are of wood, and are 
made of either bamboo or teak. They stand upon wooden 
platforms about six feet from the ground, being supported in 
that position by strong teak pillars. Teak is used for this 
purpose not only on account of its strength, but because 
it is also one of the few woods which are so hard that 
the destructive little "white ant" leaves it alone. The 
walls are of teak boards, or else of plaited bamboo. In the 
latter case the dwelling is light and airy, for the numerous 
interstices between the strands of wood are left unclosed. 


thus admitting a plentiful supply of air and light. The roof 
is always covered with some form of thatch, never with 
slates or tiles. Along the river banks and near water gener- 
ally, the attap palm grows in abundance, and its long fibrous 
leaves make an excellent thatch. The leaves are stitched 
together, forming rectangular layers about two feet long 
and one foot wide. When these leafy mats are placed on 
the roof in an inclined position they form a water-tight 
covering. In places remote from water, where the leaves 
cannot be easily obtained, an equally serviceable thatch 
is made from the long broad leaves of certain kinds 
of jungle grass. These leafy roofs last about three 
years. In the summer they get so completely dried by 
the sun that they become brittle, and every strong gust of 
wind carries away tiny bits of the thatch. In this con- 
dition they are extremely inflammable, and fires are of 
frequent occurrence. As the houses are usually very close 
together, a fire is a very serious calamity ; for not only are 
numerous dwellings consumed in the rapidly spreading 
conflagration itself, but it is always necessary to destroy 
every house in the neighbourhood on which sparks would 
be likely to fall, in order to prevent a wholesale bonfire. 
There is no fire-brigade either amateur or professional, and 
the soldiers are always employed to put out the flames. 
One of these houses could be easily smashed to bits by 
a hatchet, especially in the dry season, when they are 
about as substantial as a match-box. 

The houses are built on poles for two reasons; first, to 


avoid the floods during the rainy season, and secondly, to 
prevent the intrusion of the wild beasts who roam about 
at nights in the more remote parts of the country. There 
is no second storey, but a platform or verandah runs along 
the front or even round the whole of the house. The 
ascent to this verandah, or to the front door in the 
absence of one, is made by means of a rickety ladder 
constructed of the indispensable bamboo. 

The house is divided into at least three rooms, a kitchen, 
a drawing-room and a bed-room. So powerful is the 
superstition that even numbers are unlucky, that the number 
of rooms is always an odd one. The same fancy regulates 
also the number of windows and doors, and even the rungs 
of the ladder. Of these rooms the least dirty is the one 
we have designated the drawing-room. The kitchen is 
always remarkable for its accumulation of dirt and rubbish. 
A properly constructed fire-place is of course impossible 
in a wooden house. A substitute for grate and oven is 
obtained in one of two ways. A wooden box is filled 
with earth, and a couple of bricks are placed thereon. 
The fire, which is of wood or charcoal, is laid between 
the bricks, and the pot, pan, or kettle is supported by 
them. A more civilised form of stove is an earthenware 
furnace. It resembles in shape a short narrow pail, con- 
taining a shelf midway, pierced by a number of round 
holes. Below the shelf an oblong aperture is cut in the 
side of the pail. The pot stands on the rim of the bucket, 
the charcoal is placed on the sieve-like shelf, and a current 








of air is caused to pass upwards by rapidly waving a fan 
to and fro in front of the lateral opening. No chimney 
or other method of exit is provided in the kitchen by which 
the smoke of the fire can escape. It finds its way to the 
exterior or into the other rooms of the house, through the 
holes in the walls or through the light frame-work screens 
and partitions that represent walls. Grime and soot accu- 
mulate year afler year, and form a very complete if inartistic 
covering to the sides and roof of this Oriental kitchen. 
The place is never cleaned out or disinfected. Spiders spin 
their webs in undisturbed possession of every nook; tiny 
lizards crawl over the walls, open-mouthed, looking for 
flies and mosquitoes ; multitudes of insects of the " crawly 
creepy" kind find comfortable breeding-places amidst the 
shreds of smoke-stained attap. 

Every member of the household knows how to cook. 
If the mother is not at home, the father can easily take 
her place, for he knows quite well how long rice should 
be boiled or bananas stewed. The little children can 
fry the fish or make the curry, and so are independent of 
their parents in this respect. Whenever the voice of hunger 
makes itself heard, its appeal is promptly responded to, 
and consequently great irregularity prevails in the times of 
meals. But as a general rule there are two fixed meals 
each day, one at about seven o'clock in the morning and 
the other about half-past five in the afternoon. The chief 
article of food is rice. In the cooking of this grain the 
people have no rivals. They wash it four or five times. 


and then soak it for a little while. They put it next into 
boiling water for three or four minutes, and then pour off 
the water. The pot is left over the fire for some time 
longer so that it is well steamed, care being taken, how- 
ever, to remove the pot before the rice is burned. When 
it is turned out into the basin, the grains are all consider- 
ably swollen, and are separate from each other. They are 
as white as snow and not at all sticky. Rice is cooked in 
many other ways ; made into cakes, fermented to make an 
intoxicating drink, taken internally as medicine, and used 
externally as a poultice. Fruits and sweetmeats are eaten 
between meals. The rice is often served up cold. 

When making a meal, the natives either follow the 
custom of the Chinese and poke their food into their mouths 
with chop-sticks, or they attempt to imitate the European, 
and use spoons made of tin, lead, or china ; or finally, they 
use their own fingers. A large bowl of rice is placed in 
the centre of the floor and the hungry ones sit round it 
in a circle, either squatting upon their haunches or sitting 
tailor-fashion with their legs crossed under them. Various 
curries and other foods are eaten with the rice, and these 
are placed in small china basins arranged round the central 
one. Each person has in front of him a small basin, and 
helps himself, so that the quickest eater naturally gets the 
biggest share. 

Rice is sold in the markets and at many little shops, 
ready cooked, and wrapped up in small quantities in a 
banana leaf. Workmen and others engaged in outdoor 


occupations find it just as easy to get a meal outside as 
at home, for they never suffer from lack of plates, tables, 
or chairs. They just sit down by the side of the road and 
wait for the first itinerant dealer in eatable wares to appear, 
when they dip into his pots or baskets, and for a few cents 
get a fairly substantial meal. 

As a relish with the rice, fish is generally eaten. This 
may be fresh or stale, fried or fermented. • The stale fish 
eaten by the natives may be recognised from afar owing 
to its powerful perfume. Such forms of food, especially 
when they have the additional attraction of a particularly 
pungent flavour, are held in high esteem. Decaying prawn 
well covered with fiery pepper is a delicacy keenly appre- 
ciated. Eggs that have been salted and preserved are also 
considered palatable. Amongst the other dainties that figure 
on the menu may be mentioned the seeds and stalks of 
the sacred lotus, the stem of the young bamboo, peas, beans, 
sugar-cane, several kinds of weeds and blossoms, every 
kind of fruit obtainable, chilies, mango-chutney, cocoa-nut 
milk, and fat pork. The favourite sauce is called " Nam- 
prik" or "pepper-water," Red pepper is bruised in a mor- 
tar and then made into a paste with shrimps or prawns in 
a condition politely described as "high." To this is added 
black pepper, garlic and onions. Brine and citron juice 
give to the compound the necessary liquidity. A little ginger 
is also considered a desirable ingredient. This sauce is said 
to be 'decidedly efficacious in stimulating a jaded appetite. 
Being accustomed to this highly seasoned kind of diet, 


the Siamese fail as a rule to appreciate the more delicate 
flavours of the European table, which they describe as 
being perfectly insipid. 

They excel in the art of preparing fruit, and they can 
remove the hard kernels from all stone fruit, with such 
skill that when placed upon the table, the eye fails to 
discover from its external appearance, that the natural 
condition of the fruit has been in any way altered. The 
meal is washed down with a draught of canal water. 
There are no water-works, and as the poor cannot afford 
to buy receptacles in which to store Up rain water, they 
are forced during the dry season to drink the filthy sewage- 
water of the canals. Needless to state, cholera epidemics 
are by no means infrequent. 

The floor of the kitchen is of plaited bamboo, like most 
of the walls. Through the cracks are thrown all the scraps 
that remain when breakfast or dinner is finished. The cook- 
ing water, the old bits of meat, bone, and fish, the skins 
of fruits, and most other domestic refuse are similarly dis- 
posed of. There is always a crowd of bony, hungry pariahs 
lying in wait beneath the kitchen floor, ready to snap up 
the bits as they fall. It is well for the inhabitants that 
these canine waifs and strays do thus frequent their habi- 
tations, for in the absence of any salaried scavengers, they 
would otherwise become veritable pest-houses. The little 
furniture that the kitchen boasts, is not of any great value. 
There is the fireplace, — a wooden box, or earthen stove; 
a few earthenware pots; a few china and brass basins; 


some old kerosine tins, which are used for carrying water ; 
a few baskets ; a kettle and a small table ; an old stool or 
up-turned box. 

Just as there are no cleaning days, so there are no 
washing days. When the people go to bathe, they go 
into the water in the garment they happen to be wearing 
at the time. When they come out again; they very dex- 
terously wrap a clean dry one round the body, at the 
same time slipping off the wet one, which is then wrung 
out, and left to dry in the sun. The professional washer- 
men or "dhobies" are all Chinese and are chiefly employed 
by the Europeans. Their methods of washing immediately 
destroy flanneb, and ultimately ruin every article of what- 
ever texture that is handed over to their tender mercies. 
They wash clothes on the banks of the canal in the dirty 
water. They first soak them till thoroughly wet, then rub 
them well over with soap, and then bang them against 
the stones till they have succeeded in knocking some of 
the dirt out, and many holes in. A rinse in water follows, 
and then the articles are dried in the sun. They under- 
stand the mysteries of "ironing and starching**, but the 
'•ironing'* process is productive of numerous patches of 
"mould**, and the "starching" results in an uncanny 
limpidity. Any man in want of a dress-shirt, or a clean 
pair of white drill trousers, can always borrow those belong- 
ing to someone else on application at the "laundry", and 
the payment of a small fee. 

The drawing-room, sitting-room, parlour, or whatever 


other name it may be known by, is not luxuriously furnished. 
The visitor sits upon the floor, with only a skin or mat 
between himself and the boards. In many instances even 
this form of couch is absent. A few low stools may occasion- 
ally be found. The walls are commonly adorned with 
photographs, cheap lithographs, and prints. Every caller 
is offered a tray x>f betel-nut and its accompanying condi- 
ments; a cup of tea, and cigarettes. The betel-nut is not 
eaten alone, but with a mixture of tobacco, seri-leaf, tur- 
meric and lime, and no host ever forgets to offer these 
things to his guest. In time, as a result of continual chew- 
ing, the gums and lips become a vivid red, and the teeth 
an intense shiny black, and in extreme old age the teeth 
also protrude in a repulsive fashion. The first effect of 
the nut upon a beginner is rather of an intoxicating or 
stupefying nature. But after having once contracted a 
strong liking for its bitter flavour, many people find them- 
selves absolutely unable to do without it. Every man 
carries in his pocket a small box containing the nut, the 
tobacco etc., or is followed wherever he goes by his servant 
who bears it after him. When the master sits down, the 
servant deposits it by his side so that it is easily within 
reach of the owner. These boxes are often of valuable 
material and beautiful workmanship. The commonest 
material used in their construction is silver, but the wealth- 
ier classes have their betel-boxes made of rich, ruddy gold 
and set with jewels. The black teeth that are obtained 
by the constant use of the nut are considered beautiful. 


The natives express their contempt for white teeth in the 
remark, "Any dog can have white teeth." The local 
dentists keep in stock complete sets of black false teeth, 
so that when a naturally black tooth is removed, an artifi- 
cially coloured one can at once take its place and so pre- 
vent any break in the uniform coal-like aspect of the mouth. 
Saliva is produced in copious quantities during mastication, 
and is of a blood red colour. As it is never swallowed, 
spittoons must always accompany the betel-box. If the 
saliva is allowed to fall upon wood or stone it produces 
brick-red stains which are not easily removable. Such stains 
are exceedingly common in the streets and houses. The 
black deposit formed upon the teeth is said to exercise a 
preserving influence upon them. 

Smoking is to some extent gradually replacing betel-nut 
chewing, especially with the children, who now take to the 
weed when they are about five or six years old. The native 
tobacco is very strong, and when smoked as a cigarette 
wrapped in dried banana-leaf, it is decidedly unpalatable 
to the European. Light cigarette tobaccos of foreign manufac- 
ture are now much in vogue. Those who can afford it, roll 
up the tobacco in lotus leaf. For this purpose the petals 
of the lotus flowers are taken, dried in the sun, flattened 
with a hot iron, and then cut into rectangular pieces of 
of the same size as ordinary cigarette paper. Pipes are 
rarely seen. 

The natives are not addicted either to strong drink or 
to opium. Those who drink beer and spirits have learnt 


the habit from their Western friends. The opium monopoly 
is farmed, and is at present in the hands of a Chinaman 
who is the king's head cook. The late king feared that his 
subjects might take to the drug, and he issued a decree 
forbidding all of them under heavy penalties to buy or 
smoke it, but the law has become inoperative. 

The bedroom, the third necessary room of every Siamese 
dwelling, cannot be held up as a model of cleanliness. 
Frequently it is the lumber-room where everything old and 
unnecessary is stowed away. The altar and the idols are 
placed therein, especially if the sick or dying are lying there. 
On retiring for the night, the doors and windows are 
closed, and the atmosphere soon becomes hot and unhealthy. 
Owing to the presence of innumerable mosquitoes whose 
buzzing and stinging are effective preventatives of somno- 
lescence, every one must sleep inside a mosquito net. In 
the majority of cases the net is so dirty, and its meshes 
are so clogged with deposits of dust accumulated through 
many days, that neither air nor mosquitoes can penetrate 
its folds. People sleep on the bare boards, on mats or skins, 
and on mattresses stuffed with tree cotton. Pillows are not 
in common use, except amongst those who have borrowed 
the Chinese form of this luxury — namely, a hard, hollow, 
semi-cylindrical frame of bamboo. 

When sleeping, the head must not be pointing to the West, 
as that point of the compass where the sun finishes his 
daily round, is synonymous with death. The favourable 
position is with the head to the North and the feet to the 


South. Other superstitions with regard to the points of the 
compass prevail, certain directions being considered auspi- 
cious according to the days of the week. Thus on Sunday, 
the East is the lucky situation; on Monday, the West; on 
Tuesday, the South; on Wednesday, the South West; on 
Thursday, the North; on Friday, the South East; and on 
Saturday, the North West. It is very important that on any 
given day a person should not set out to travel in any 
other direction, or place his face towards any other point 
of the compass should he be taking part in any ceremony 
of importance. 

If the tenant of the house owns any cattle, they are stabled 
underneath, so that any thieves who may visit his premises 
during the night may readily be detected. Pigs and cows 
directly under one's bedroom are not usually considered as 
being conducive to healthy, restful sleep, but the Siamese 
do not seem to mind their presence in the least. 

Frequent mention has been made of the bright colours 
of the clothes worn by the people. Most of the cotton or 
silk goods are manufactured in England, Germany, or Switz- 
erland, but the brighter and more artistic colours are 
produced by the natives themselves, by means of a number 
of dyes made from various roots, fruits, and seeds. Some 
of the colours thus obtained are never to be found in any 
of the cloths imported from abroad, especially the many 
beautiful shades of yellow and orange, so conspicuous in 
the ecclesiastical vestments. To be thoroughly fashionable 
one must put on a differently coloured garment every day. 


and wear rings and other jewelled ornaments with stones 
of corresponding hue. This custom is not simply a fashion- 
able one. It owes its origin to an old superstition. Sunday 
is under the rule of the sun, therefore on that day bright 
red silks and rubies should be worn; Monday, the day of 
the moon, can only be properly respected by wearing silver 
or white coloured garments and moonstones ; Tuesday, the 
day of ruddy Mars, requires light red clothes with coral 
ornaments; Wednesday, devoted to the greenish tinted 
Mercury, is the day when green garments and emeralds are 
correct; the variegated appearance of Jupiter dominates the 
fashion for Thursday and prescribes the cat's-eye as the 
proper jewel; Venus rules on Friday, and requires from 
her worshippers silver-blue apparel and diamonds; while 
Saturday is under the influence of Saturn, who demands 
sapphires and dark-blue costumes. 

The Siamese wear their hair cut short and brushed straight 
up from the forehead. This method of dressing the hair 
is of comparatively late origin. The king's crown, the atrtor's 
head-dress, and the hats worn in many processions are all 
of a conical shape. They owe their design to that period 
when the hair was knotted and piled up on the head in 
such a way as to require a conical hat or crown. Before 
the first century, the hair is said to have been worn in a 
long flowing plait, resembling the pig-tail of the Chinese. 
From the second to the eighth centuries, when Siam was 
tributary to Cambodia, a Hindoo style of dressing the hair 
was adopted from the sovereign state. At this time a 



central lock of hair adorned the head. At a later date 
when the country gained its independence, the hair was 
allowed to grow uniformly all over the head, but cut short. 
The change was made in order that some visible sign 
could be shown that freedom had been gained. This fashion 
remained in vogue till about the thirteenth century when 

MAKING curry/ 

the top-knot was introduced as a relic of Sivaitic worship, 
together with other Hindoo manners, by immigrants from 
India. Other forms were at different times adopted. For 
instance, from 1002 A.D. to 1768 A.D. the hair of the 
men was frequently cut in a cup-shaped fashion. The king 
who reigned at that time is popularly supposed to be 
responsible for this style, which could be most satisfactorily 


produced by placing half a cocoa-nut upon the head, and 
shaving or cutting away all the hair then visible. Women, 
however, allowed their locks to grow until they flowed 
over the shoulders. Again, from 1698 A.D. to 1798 A.D. 
many people adopted the "Great Freemen" pattern, in 
which the hair appeared in the form of a reversed brush 
in the centre of the head. 

There are certain days of the week when it is unwise to 
visit the barber, others on which it is highly desirable that 
any alteration in the condition of the hair should be made. 
If it is cut on Sunday, lasting happiness and long life are 
ensured to him who then loses his locks; the unfortunate 
individual who undergoes the same operation on a Monday 
may expect fatal diseases, sorrows, and many unpleasant 
surprises; Tuesday hair-cuttings bring peacefulness and 
prosperity, and victory in war, while those of a Wednes- 
day are attended with manifold evils, great anxieties, and 
troubles from enemies. If a man desires the powerful 
protection of those angels who inhabit the heavenly 
spheres, he must get his hair cut on a Thursday; if 
he would have the satisfaction of finding all kinds of food 
savoury and palatable, he must visit the barber on Friday ; 
and lastly, if he would be certain of the successful accom- 
plishment of every rite and deed performed on the Satur- 
day, he should submit his locks to the shears on that 

In a country where so many insanitary conditions surround 
the life of the people, sickness is common. Hence doctors 


and quacks abound. A few Siamese have been educated 
for the medical profession in foreign countries, and are 
skilful practitioners. A few others have learnt the principles 
of European medicine and surgery in the Medical School 
at Bangkok, but the vast majority of the native professors 
of the healing art have no other knowledge than that 
handed down to them by tradition. There are royal " doctors" 
attached to the court, quacks who profess to cure anything 
and everything under the sun, and magicians who both cure 
and kill for a moderate consideration. If a person has an 
enemy whose death he wishes to encompass, there are 
certain wizards who will grive effect to his wishes by be- 
witching a buffalo. The animal then dwindles to the size 
of a pea. This highly condensed pill is given to the enemy, 
and when swallowed begins to expand to its original size, 
with a result that is best left undescribed. Other magicians 
make clay images to represent sick persons. Over these 
images they perform curious incantations, and then bury 
them in the jungle, where they absorb and so remove 
the sickness of the person whom they represent. There is, 
however, a distinct school and science of medicine which is 
not simply a matter of magic. In the treatment of fevers 
and other local ailments, the native doctors are as good as 
the European. They are clever practisers of the operation 
of massage; they understand the nature and use of many 
of the herbs and roots that grow in their jungles; and 
they are great believers in shower-baths, and in the healing 
properties of earth when applied to wounds and boils. 


Their physiological and scientific knowledge is summed up 
briefly in the following paragraphs. 

All nature is composed of four elements, earth, fire, 
wind and water. The bodies of men and animals are made 
up of the same constituents, the earth and water being 
visible in the bones, flesh and blood, while the fire and 
wind, though invisible, are clearly present in the breath and 
heat. The earth of which all solid bodies are composed 
is of twenty-six varieties ; the different forms of water are 
divided into twelve classes, those of wind into six classes, 
and those of fire into four. Now in the body of man all 
the six kinds of wind are known to exist. The first flows 
from his head to his feet, the second from his feet to his 
head. The third wind circulates in the region of the dia- 
phragm ; the fourth forms the pulse ; the fiflh enters the 
lungs; and the sixth is present in the abdominal viscera. 
Of the four kinds of fire that exercise any influence upon 
the health of humanity, two varieties of this subtle element 
are beneficial, and produce respectively the natural temper- 
ature of the body, and an easy digestion. The other two 
kinds are of an undesirable character, as one is the cause 
of fevers, and the other consumes the body in old age. 

The body is divided into thirty-two parts subject to 
ninety-six diseases, all of which are the inevitable result 
of any excess in the amount of any one of the primary 
elements. An excess in the quantity of fire produces all 
kinds of fevers; any superabundance of water creates 
dropsy and kindred ailments. All sicknesses that cannot 



be easily accounted for, are attributed to an accumulation 
of wind, and the natives commonly reply when asked what 
is the matter with them, "ben lom", that is, "it is wind." 
Ill health and good health are dispensed by numerous 
spirits, and it behoves all men so to order their lives and 
actions that they may not incur the displeasure of those 


spirits who have sickness at their disposal, but that they 
may win the favour of those who dispense the blessing of 
perfect health. 

In the days when Buddha walked and talked amongst 
men, there lived a man of remarkable wisdom who is the 
father of medicine. To him the plants and flowers of the 
forest spoke, revealing their many virtues. The knowledge 


thus revealed to him he wrote down in books, and also 
taught by word of mouth to his fellow-men. The remedies 
he prescribed are sacred and infallible. If they apparently 
fail to cure, the failure is not to be attributed to the 
method of treatment he laid down, but to the want of 
sufficient goodness of life and character in the doctor or 
his patient. Every native physician has in his house an 
image of this legendary founder of his profession. Upon 
his face is a beneficent smile. One of his hands is held 
outstretched. In the hollow of this outstretched hand, 
every drug is placed to receive his blessing before it is 
administered to the ailing one. After having received the 
blessing, the drug is taken to the house of the patient and 
there boiled in an earthenware pot. The solution thus 
obtained, very often has to be drunk in quarts before any 
effect is produced. If the sick man dies the doctor gets 
no remuneration for his services. The following recipe for 
a mixture that will cure snake-bites should be noticed by 
all those who intend to hunt or work in jungles where 
poisonous reptiles abound. 

A piece of the jaw of a wild hog. 
A piece of the jaw of a tame hog. 
A piece of the bone of a goose. 
A piece of the bone of a peacock. 
The tail of a fish. 
The head of a venomous snake. 



Slavery or serfdom is one of the most interesting features 
in the social life of the Siamese. It is another of those 
customs which they have borrowed from a neighbouring 
nation. The Shan ancestors of the Siamese were "free" 
men, and the name "Thai*', which was the name they 
called themselves, signified that fact. It is, moreover, the 
name of the nation to-day, though the condition of slavery 
is a very wide-spread one. For many years the inhabitants 
of the plains were tributary to Cambodia, whose princes 
and nobles treated all servants and aliens as slaves. When 
the foreign yoke was thrown off, this domestic custom was 
instituted amongst the "free" men, and all the subjects of 
the king became theoretically his slaves. But as he was 
unable to find employment for this large body of serfs, he 
delegated a portion of his ownership to persons of lower 
rank. These in turn handed on their powers to other people, 
and so arose a condition of universal serfdom, which, how- 
ever, was only strictly enforced in the case of the poorer 
classes. The system thus organised divided the whole 
nation into a series of social strata, but the limits between 


the different grades of society have never been so rigid 
and impassable as the adamantine boundaries that separate 
the castes of India. In fact, the serf in Siam to-day may 
be a nobleman of high rank in the future, should he possess 
ability of suiBcient distinction to warrant so great a pro- 
motion. Until the present reign there were theoretically 
no '* free** men in the kingdom at all, for everybody owed 
homage to some one of higher degree ; but one of the first 
acts of H. M. King Chulalongkorn after he came to the 
throne, was to issue a decree by which all children born 
of slaves were thereafter declared free. As freedom could 
be purchased there were also many people in the land who 
had obtained their independence. Though the king's decree 
struck a very decisive blow at the condition of domestic 
slavery, a system of state slavery still prevails inasmuch 
as the laws relating to corvie and conscription are still 
enforced. Chinese, priests, and foreigners are all exempt from 
enforced labour of any kind, but the first-named of these 
classes has to pay a triennial tax as the price of its 
exemption. The people who are now in bonds^e are in that 
condition chiefly as the result of financial indebtedness. 

When a native borrows money he either promises to pay 
a certain amount of interest for the loan, or he promises 
and actually allows the lender to have his services for a 
specified time in lieu of interest. Should the borrower under 
the first agreement here mentioned, fail to pay the interest 
he has promised, he then offers his personal services in 
payment of both interest and capital. If the total sum is 


IsLTge, a lifetime may not be long enough to work off the 
debt at the native rate of wages, and he so becomes a 
slave for life Many people, too, when heavily in debt, 
sell themselves bodily to someone who will discharge their 
numerous debts for them. The man who has lost his freedom 
as the result of financial misfortunes can always re-obtain 
it if he can in any way obtain sufficient money to pay 
off his debts. There is nothing cruel or revolting in the 
treatment of the serfs, and many of them are sincerely 
attached to their masters, and have been known voluntarily 
to afford them any assistance they could when misfortunes 
have overtaken them. They are fed, clothed, and housed 
at the expense of their owners, and rarely experience in 
their dependent condition any real hardship. Away in the 
country the majority of the people prefer to live as the 
bondservants of some powerful person, who in return for 
their labour provides both them and their families with 
protection and support. 

The carvie laws are also responsible for a certain number 
of those who are in bondage. When the central authorities 
claim the services of someone resident in a remote quarter 
of the country, the order is made through the governor 
of the province in which the person whose time and labour 
are required, resides. If this person desires to avoid the 
requisition, he is often allowed by the local officials to pay 
a certain sum of money sufficient for the hire or purchase 
of a substitute. A mark is then tattooed on the wrist of 
the substitute, and he becomes definitely the property of 


the government. Now if the " marked '* man should die at 
an early date, an illegal claim is often made for the 
provision of another proxy, on his wife and children. This 
claim is in opposition to the law, but has often been made 
by officials of cruel, arbitrary dispositions. In most cases he 
who so breaks the law is also the administrator of the law 
for that district, and if the woman and her children are 
unable to satisfy the demand for money thus unjustly made, 
they must become themselves the slaves of the official till 
they work off the amount required from them. When the 
boys have grown to such a height that they too may be 
called upon by the government for corvie or conscription, 
their master also marks them upon the wrist, and in this 
way the condition of serfdom is perpetuated from generation 
to generation. When at a later date the government does 
actually requisition their services, their owner professes that 
they are really his own personal property, and he pays 
to the central authorities a tax of ninety cents per annum 
for each male, and so retains them as his dependants. In 
these cases also, the bond-man becomes free when he is 
prepared to pay a certain fixed sum, but it is rarely possible 
for a serf to obtain the necessary funds, as he is daily 
employed in the service of his master and so prevented 
from earning wages elsewhere. No slaves can be sold to 
another person without their own consent. If a slave is 
sold, and if he afterwards absconds, the seller is bound 
to repay to the buyer the sum origfinally paid, less a reason- 
able amount reckoned for loss of service during the 


time he has been absent from his old master, unless 
it is directly specified to the contrary in the agreement 
made at the time of purchase. Before the king's decree 
freed the children of all slaves, they too became the property 
of the owners of their parents, but they could be set at 
liberty by paying a sum of money which was fixed by law. 
They could not be sold to anyone else without the consent 
both of themselves and their parents. 

Each slave has a paper on which is stated the amount 
to be paid for his or her redemption. The paper is kept 
by the owner, but it must be given up whenever the amount 
specified therein is forthcoming. The slave who attempts 
to gain freedom by running away, and so avoiding what 
is often a perfectly just and legal debt, is punished by 
being put in chains, but the fetters are of no great weight 
and are simply put on the ankles to prevent any further 
attempt at escape. In any case they are preferable to an 
indefinite period of imprisonment in the native goal. 

If a man buys a new servant, and afterwards sees reason 
to regret his bargain, he may demand the return of the pur- 
chase money, and the cancelling of the agreement, provided 
he makes his claim before the expiration of three months 
from the date of purchase. If any bond-servant neglects 
the due performance of any of the duties prescribed by 
the master, the losses that are thereby incurred are added 
to the amount of the redemption money, and must be paid 
before freedom can be claimed. If any female slave is 

married against her will to any favourite of her owner, or 



maybe to the owner himself, the price of her freedom must 
forthwith be reduced by one half. When wars took place, 
the man who fought in lieu of his master, thereby regained 
his freedom. Should any serf sustain injury in any way 
while carrying out work demanded from him by his owner, 
he is entitled to receive compensation according to the 
nature and extent of his injuries. When a slave is killed 
in defending either his master or his master's property, no 
claim can be made against the person who was security 
for the slave. But if any slave absconds, then any money 
spent in his apprehension is added to the price of his 
redemption. It will be seen that the laws of the kingdom 
which govern the system of domestic bondage, are on the 
whole of a just and equitable nature. And it must not be 
forgotten that these laws were made long before Western 
influence had in any way exercised any effect in the land. 
They are sufficient in themselves to demonstrate the essen- 
tially broad-minded and humanitarian character of the present 
and previous sovereigns. It is true that they are often 
broken by powerful officials in remote districts, but under 
the new system of administration now being rapidly organised, 
there will perhaps arise a more rigorous and judicial applica* 
tion of the principles of the legislative code. 

The national etiquette is the logical result of the national 
condition of society. Briefly put, it consists of a certain 
number of laws relating to the amount of deference to be 
paid by persons of one social grade to those of a higher 
one. Most of the old forms of etiquette are strictly observed 


by all ranks, though of late years a few have disappeared 
under the pressure of progressive social reforms stimulated 
and often initiated by the kihg hirnself. As the head is 
the most sacred part of the body, the chief rules that con- 
cern the behaviour of an inferior person in the presence 
of his superior, relate to the position of the body. Formerly 
no person dared rai^e his head to the level of that of one 
of higher rank. He might not cross a bridge while his 
superior passed beneath, nor could he walk in a room 
situated above that in which his superior might be lying 
or sitting. At the present time, bridges and floors are 
trodden indiscriminately. Until the year 1874 A.D., all 
persons approached the sovereign on hands and knees, 
crawling with the head upon a level with the monarch's 
feet. The crawling in public has been abolished, but nearly 
every person crouches in the streets when he speaks to, 
or passes, one whom he knows to be of higher rank than 
himself. The abolition of public crawling was made by 
the present king in the presence of his assembled courtiers 
a few years after he ascended the throne. The occasion 
will ever remain a memorable one in the annals of the 
country. All the chief members of the drfferent govern- 
ment services were iii their accustomed positions on 
hands and knees, with heads bent to the ground, when 
a decree was read to them of which the following paragraphs 
formed a portion. 

''Since His Majesty ascended the throne, it has been 
the Royal purpose to cherish the State and augment the 


happiness of the greater and lesser princes, ministers and 
nobles, the clergy, the Brahmins, and the masses of the 
people all over the kingdom. Whatever is oppressive and 
burdensome, it has been the Royal purpose to remove from 
the people, and abolish from the State. His Majesty has 
noticed that the great countries and powers in Eastern 
and 'Western Asia, that is to say to the East of our 
country, China, Cochin China and Japan, and to the West, 
India and the regions where oppression existed, compelling 
the inferiors to prostrate and worship their masters and 
persons of rank, similar to the custom prevailing in Siam, 
have at present ceased these customs and instituted 
new ones. 

"They have universally changed and ceased the custom 
of prostration and worship, to make manifest tlie good 
purpose that there shall be no more oppression in their 
countries. The countries that have abolished these rigorous 
exactions, have manifestly greatly increased in their 

*'In this kingdom of Siam there are some national 
customs that are rigorous, hostile to good usage, and ought 
to be modified ; but the changing and modifying of customs 
cannot be effected at once; such changes must be the 
subject of much thought and gradual modification, adapted 
to times and circumstances. It is in this way that states 
will augment their susceptible prosperity. 

** The custom of prostratipn and human worship in Siam, 
is manifestly an oppressive exaction which an inferior must 


perform to a superior, causing him embarrassing fatigue in 
order to honour a superior. These acts of showing honour 
by such prostration and worship, His Majesty perceives are 
of no benefit whatever to the country. Inferiors who are 
obliged to perform them, to honour their superiors, must 
endure and suffer much till the time when they leave the 
presence of their superior and thus escape the requisition. 
This custom His Majesty perceives is a primary cause of 
many existing oppressive exactions, therefore, this ancient 
national custom, which made prostration the prescribed 
method of demonstrating respect in Siam, must be abolished ; 
for His Majesty is graciously disposed to confer happiness 
upon all, and to this end, will relieve them from the 
burden of prostration as practised heretofore. His Majesty 
proposes to substitute in the place of crouching and crawl- 
ing, standing and walking; and instead of prostration on 
all-fours and bowing with palm-joined hands to the ground, 
a graceful bow of the head. 

'* Standing, walking, bowing the head, are equal demon- 
strations of respect with crouching and crawling. 

''Perhaps some persons of rank who may favour the 
custom of crouching and crawling as heretofore, thinking it 
good, may have their doubts as to the wisdom or advis- 
ability of the new regulations, and may wish to know why 
the change from prostration to standing will be advantage- 
ous to the State. These may rest assured that the proposed 
change is ordered to impress upon the people the intention 
to remove from them all oppressive exactions. States that 


do not oppress the inferior ranks will assuredly have great 

"Henceforth, the princes and nobles according to their 
rank, when in solemn audience before the throne, or where- 
ever His Majesty may be present, will please observe this 
Royal Edict, which is hereby promulgated to reg^ulate 
henceforth the conduct of noblemen in every particular in 
in this matter." * 

The decree proceeded to detail and explain the new 
social rules, after which the whole crowd rose from the 
ground, and for the first time in the history of the country, 
the subject stood upright in the presence of the sovereign. 
The people to whom this wise edict was addressed are 
of a conservative nature, and believe in precedent as an 
infallible guide in all matters. They have no love for in- 
novations, and have been slow to follow their king in his 
forward march towards a pure and enlightened form of 
government. There are many noblemen who still insist 
upon their servants approaching them in thj ancient way, 
in spite of the proclamation and the king's own wishes. 
But on court days no such demonstrations are now ever 
seen within the precincts of the Audience Chamber. 

The place of honour is on the right hand of the chief 
guest. Places near the wall on the right hand are of 
greater honour than those on the left, while the position 
of greatest distinction in any room is opposite the door. 

Civil and religious holidays follow each other in rapid 

• "Siam Repository." 



succession the whole year round. The King's birthday is 
celebrated for three days by the entire nation. Ships are 
wreathed in flowers and bunting, banquets are given, 
receptions are held, and salutes are fired. At night, the 
palaces in the city, the vessels in the river, every house 
by the side of a road or on the bank of a stream, are ablaze 
with light. Night is turned to day, and earth becomes a 
fairy land. 


The New Year holidays also last three days. They 
commence on the First of April, a day which is scarcely 
auspicious from the European point of view. For the usual 
feasting that accompanies this and all other holidays, a 
special kind of cake is made, which is as much in demand 
as our own Shrove-Tuesday pancakes or our Good-Friday 
hot cross-buns. The temples are thronged with women 
and children making offerings to Buddha and his priests. 


The people inaugurate their New Year with numerous chari- 
table and religious deeds. The rich entertain the monks, 
who recite appropriate prayers and chants. Every departed 
soul returns to the bosom of his family during these three 
days, freed from any fetters that may have bound him in 
regions of indefinable locality. On the third day the reli- 
gious observances terminate, and the remaining hours are 
devoted to "the world, the flesh, and the devil." Gambling 
is not confined to the licensed houses, but may be indulged 
in anywhere. Games of chance hold powerful sway in every 
house as long as the license to participate in them lasts. 

Priests in small companies occupy posts at regular inter- 
vals round the city wall, and spend their time in chanting 
away the evil spirits. On the evening of the second day, 
the ghostly visitors firom the lower realms lose the luxury 
of being exorcised with psalms. Every person who has a 
gun may fire it as often as he pleases, and the noise thus 
made is undoubtedly fearful enough in its intensity to cause 
any wandering traveller from the far-off fiery land to re- 
trace his steps with speed. The bang and rattle of pistob, 
muskets, shot-guns, and rifles cease not till the break of 
day, by which time the city is effectually cleared of all its 
infernal visitors. 

Twice each year another important holiday occurs, in 
connection with the taking of the oath of allegiance. Every 
person who is a prince, a nobleman, or a paid servant of 
the Government, is required to present himself at the temple 
in the g^rounds of the Royal Palace, or at other places 


appointed in other parts of the country, to swear his alle- 
giance to the kii^. Each person signifies his acceptance 
of the oath read to him, by drinking, and sprinkling upon 
his forehead, a few drops of specially prepared water. Some 
ordinary rain-water is first placed in a bowl, and then 
stirred with swords, pistob, spears and other weapons such 
as are likely to be used in the punishment of those who 
are guilty of treasonable practices. Priests are excused, 
as it is considered that their professions of holiness are 
sufficient guarantees of their loyalty. 

Portions of the symbolical water are afterwards sent to 
the distant provinces. The local governors then assemble 
those people who are in any way connected with the local 
administration, and require them also to take the oath and 
drink the water of allegiance. The formula of the oath is 
somewhat lengthy, but the following translation of a portion 
of it will serve to show its general character. 

" We beseech the powers of the deities to plague with 
poisonous boils that will rapidly prove fatal, and with all 
manner of terrible diseases, the dishonourable, perverse, 
and treacherous. May we be visited with untimely wretched 
and appalling deaths that our disloyalty may be made 
manifest in the eyes of the whole world. When we shall 
have departed from this life upon earth, cause us to be 
sent to, and all to be born again in, that great hell where we 
shall bum with unquenchable fire through limitless trans- 
migrations. And when we have expiated our penalties there, 
and are born again into any other world, we pray that we 


may fail to find the least happiness in any pleasurable 
enjoyments that may there abound. Let us not meet the 
god Buddha; let us not hear the sacred teachings; let us 
not come into contact with the sacred priests whose mission 
it is to be gracious to men and animals, and to help them 
to escape firom misery, to attain a progressive succession 
of births and deaths, and finally to reach heaven itself. 
Should we by any chance meet with holy men or priests, 
let us receive therefrom no gracious helpful assistance." * 

Although the oath is rather a terrible one to take, very 
very little solemnity prevails on these occasions, and every 
one performs his part of the ceremony in a most casual 

Those natives who have had little or no communication 
with Europeans are the best exemplars of the true character 
of the nation. They are very gentle in their manners; 
timid, especially in the dark or with strangers; gay and 
cheerful, and fond of cheerful persons. They rarely quarrel 
amongst themselves, as they dislike worry and trouble of 
every description. They are lazy when ordinary work has 
to be done, but busy enough when preparations have 
to be made for amusements or holiday processions. Their 
idea of the millenium is that the tide will flow up one side 
of the river and down the other, so that everyone may go 
whithersoever he pleases without the trouble of rowing. 
There will be no work of any description, and men will 
lie in the sunshine, as happy as birds. The country people 

• "Siarn." Miss Cort 


never beg, and even in the capital it is only the leprous and 
the blind who ask for alms. There is no clamouring for back- 
sheesh as in other Oriental countries. The people are sharp 
and witty, and delight in jokes and sharp sayings. They 
are not nearly so imitative as the Chinese, but they absorb 
new ideas, and adapt themselves to changes of custom 
with great rapidity, when they have once overcome their 
initial prejudice against the innovation. When the electric 
tramway was first opened in Bangkok, the absence of any 
visible locomotive machinery caused them the greatest bewil- 
derment, and for several days they half worshipped the cars 
as they passed them in the streets, murmuring to themselves 
the while, '* It is the Devil's carriage/* In less than a week, 
the cars were packed on every journey with a crowd who 
distinctly appreciated the speed and ease with which they 
were being carried along. 

They are not greater liars than other men, except when 
they have come into close contact with civilisation. There 
are old residents living in Bangkok who remember the day 
when the word of a native was as good as his bond. To- 
day the dwellers in the city are never to be trusted. Some 
of them carefully avoid speaking the truth pn all occasions, 
even when it would be quite as serviceable as an untruth. 

The money formerly used consisted of sea-shells of small 
value, eight hundred to a thousand being equal to about two 
pence. It was easy in those days for a man however poor 
to get something to eat, for there was always something 
on sale that could be bought for the thousandth part of 


two-pence. In imitation of foreign ways, a flat coin was 
introduced made of lead, and the old sea-shell was abolished 
as legal currency. The Governntent made a huge profit out 
of the transaction, for they refused to buy up any of the 
worthless little cowries, and they sold the leaden coins for 
more than they were worth. Counterfeiting naturally followed, 
and the coins were re-called, but as soon as the treasury- 
boxes were filled with a mixture of good and false money 
the Government refused to receive any more. All those 
who still had any of the leaden money in their pos- 
session experienced a serious loss. An alloy of lead and 
copper was issued at a reduced value ; but the profit to be 
made by coining was still so great that counterfeit coins 
speedily found their way into circulation. Small bullets 
of gold and silver next came into use, and one of them 
still remains in circulation. None of these coins were stamped 
with the image of the king, for at that time there was a 
strong prejudice against the making of portraits in any 
medium. Europeans who travel into the jungle, have even 
at the present time, only to point a camera at a crowd in 
order to procure its instant dispersion. When a copy of the 
face of a person is made and taken away from him, a 
portion of his life goes with the picture. Unless the sovereign 
had been blessed with the years of a Methuselah he could 
scarcely have permitted his life to be distributed in small 
pieces together with the coins of the realm. But not many 
years ago the present king ordered a new issue of the 
coinage. Flat, round copper and silver pieces were made at 


the mint in the palace, and on every disc appeared the shapely 
profile of the reigning monarch. Postage stamps followed, 
with the same profile printed on them ; then the king was 
painted and photographed ; and so the old superstition has 
lost its power; while modem fashion requires that all who 
can afford it shall be photographed. It is perhaps scarcely 
necessary to add here, that with the exception of two or 
three Europeans, all the professional photographers are 

The flat, gold coins were hoarded by the people, turned 
into ornaments or used in the making of jewelry. They 
are no longer used as money, but are bought as curios 
for four times their original value. 

Weights and scales have not as yet displaced the old 
methods of measurement. The table of Siamese Dry Mea- 
sure is a good illustration of the devices adopted by un- 
civilised people to facilitate their bu}dng and selling in the 
absence of any fixed legal standard. 

880 Tamarind seeds make one cocoa-nut shell (kanahn) 
25 Cocoa-nut shells make one bamboo basket (sat) 
80 Bamboo baskets make one cart (kwien) 


830 Tamarind seeds make one cocoa-nut shell 
20 Cocoa-nut shells make one bucket (tung) 

100 buckets make one cart. 

In calculating time two calendars are used. One is a 
religious one and is only used for ecclesiastical purposes. 
It commences with the death of Buddha, about 543 B.C. 
The civil calendar is the one in general use. It dates from 


the founding of Bangkok in 1784 A.D. The idea of eternity 
is expressed in concrete form in the following manner. 
Eternity is divided into long periods of time, called "kops". 
Each " kop '* is represented by a stone measuring ten miles 
each way. Once in every hundred years, an angel descends 
to one of these stones and wipes its surface with a gossamer 
web. When by these successive century wipings, one stone 
shall have been thoroughly worn away, one "kop" will 
have been completed, and a second period of eternity will 

The human race is gradually dwindling away. In the 
misty ages of the past all men were giants. The present 
race of Siamese is well proportioned, but small. Their 
descendants will be smaller. Some of them will diminish 
till they are as small as dogs; a few centuries later, all 
will be no bigger than rats; the stature of a butterfly and 
then of a flea will measure the height of men, and ulti- 
mately they will disappear altogether from the face of 
the earth. 

The Siamese speak a language of their own. It possesses 
its own nouns, verbs and other parts of speech, a sprinkling 
of slang, and practically no "swear" words. These are 
only used by those whose knowledge of English is col- 
loquial. There is a special language devoted to the sacred 
person and attributes of the king, which must be used by 
all who speak to or of him. The special vocabulary required 
is a difficult one to learn even to the natives themselves. 
The hairs of the monarch's head, the soles of his feet, the 


breath of his body — in fact every single detail of his person 
both internal and external, has a particular name. When 
he eats or drinks, sleeps or walks» a special word indicates 
that these acts are being performed by the sovereign him- 
self, and such words cannot possibly be applied to any 
other person whatever. There is no word in the language 
by which any creature of higher rank or greater dignity 
than a monarch can be described ; and the missionaries in 
speaking of "God" are forced to use the native word for 
"king". Each person in speaking to another uses a pronoun 
which at once expresses whether the speaker is of superior, 
equal, or inferior rank to the person spoken to. In this 
way superiority of social position is asserted, or corresponding 
inferiority confessed, in every conversation between two 

The language spoken by the pure Siamese is monosyl- 
labic and toned. The apparently longer words are really 
a collection of monosyllables. For instance : 

'• mi-keet-fi" "a match" is made up of three words, 
'•mi"... "wood" 
"keet"... '-aline" 
"fi". . "a fire" 

The word for "ice" is a combination of two words meaning 
"hard water", and that for "cheese" a combination of two 
words meaning "hard butter". 

The toned words are a great trouble to foreigners who 
are not accustomed to a "sing-song" form of speech. Some 
syllables have three different sounds, others as many as 


five, and each diflferent tone expresses a different meaning. 
In many cases the mistakes that are made by the foreigner 
cause little difHculty, as his meaning is clear, though his 
speech is mysterious. The word for "horse" is a differ- 
ently sounded form of the word for "dog," but any 
such mistake in speech, as "Chain that horse to his 
kennel," or "Order me a two-dog carriage," would be 
readily understood by a servant, who would merely receive 
the order with a smile and then proceed to execute it 
according to the wish of his master. There are many words 
between which the difference in sound is important, as the 
smallest mistake would make all the difference between 
an ordinary and an obscene word. There are others too 
where it behoves the white man to be careful of his inflec- 
tions, or he may, when intending to say to some village 
farmer, " I am going to dance upon your field,'' unfortun- 
ately remark, "I am going to dance upon your aunt,'' or 
even "I am going to dance upon your face^' either of 
which errors might be productive of results not foreseen 
by the imperfect linguist. 

Names in Siam often indicate precise relationships. On 
pointing out one person to another and asking "Who is 
that?" — the person spoken to may reply, if any such 
relationship exist, "That is my elder brother," or "That 
is my younger brother " as the case may be, never simply 
"That is my brother." Nearly all such words as "grand- 
father," "grandmother," "uncle," and "aunt" when spoken 
by anyone indicate whether the relationship is on the 


paternal or maternal side. Names of children often relate 
to their appearance, or circumstances connected with their 
birth. One is "little," another "large," while even a parti- 
cular deformity may be perpetually called attention to by 
such a name as "hunch-back." There are no names speci- 
ally set aside as belonging to male and female, so that 
both a boy or girl may be called "lotus," or "black," or 
any other name fancied by the parents. There are also 
no surnames. 

"Nai" is a general term comparable to "Mr." and 
applied to males of all ages who possess no higher title. 
" Maa " is similarly used in the case of females. The absence 
of surnames, and also of numbered houses in most of the 
streets, causes some difficulty when it becomes necessary 
to send letters through the post. An envelope has often 
to be addressed something like the following: 

To Mr. Lek, 

Student of the Normal College, 
Son of Mr. Yai, Soldier, 

Near the foot of the Black Bridge 
at the back of the Lotus Temple, 

New Road, Bangkok. 

The alphabet is derived from Pali. There is no distinction 

between the written and printed characters, nor are there 

any capital letters. Letters and books are written from left 

to right as in the European languages, but no spaces are 

left between the words. Printing has only been in use in 



the country for about forty years, and all the old religious 
texts are written with a style, on long thin strips of palm 
leaf about eighteen inches long and two inches broad. The 
edges of the leaves are covered with gold leaf, and the 
"pages" of any book are fastened together with silk 
cords. Every monastery possesses a good collection of 
these leafy documents. They are kept in the temples in 
cases which are often elaborately gilded or inlaid with 



The Siamese are fond of being amused and of amusing 
themselves, but they do not usually indulge in active sports 
with the exception of rowing and a species of football. 
Games that involve any great physical exertion are played 
chiefly by persons who make a business of the performance. 
The professional acrobats that are met with on festive 
occasions are fearless and skilful. Amongst the many 
feats they perform for the amusement of their fellow- 
countrymen, there are few that do not require both strength 
of nerve as well as agility of limb. The " acrobat poles " 
are stout bamboo rods fastened firmly to the ground. 
Each pole terminates, about twenty feet from the ground, 
in a lotus-shaped capital. The acrobats climb to the top 
and perform various feats on the small space afforded them 
by the flattened surface of this small platform. No nets or 
mattresses are provided to break their fall in case of 
accident. There are other men who fix pikes and sword- 
blades in a row and then lie with their bare backs upon 
the sharpened points. Juggling with keen-edged daggers 
is certainly a less dangerous amusement. "Throwing the 


hammer " here takes a new form as '* swinging the hammer". 
A heavy sledge-hammer is lifted by a rope held between 
the teeth, and then swung deftly over the shoulder so as 
to fall well to the rear of the athlete. These dangerous 
acrobatic exhibitions are not at all frequent, probably owing 
to the fact that there are only a few men in the whole 
country who are able to take part in them. 

On national holidays an open air play known as ''Kra, 
ooa," or '' spearing the buffalo," is enacted. It is a mix- 
ture of dumb show and grotesque dancing, and is based 
on an old Burmese story. The legend relates that once 
upon a time there was an old woman who had a husband 
named Ta So. One night she dreamt that she was enjoy- 
ing a dish of buffalo's liver. Her enjoyment of the luxury 
was so great that she presently awoke. She was unable 
to sleep, so she awakened her husband and told him of 
her dream, and of the wonderful flavour of the meat. The 
more she dwelt upon the delicious character of her 
phantom repast, the stronger grew her desire to taste the 
real article. She urged Ta So to go out into the jungle 
and spear a buffalo. He for some time declined to rise 
from his couch, alleging that he was a bad hunter and 
dared not track so formidable a creature. He attempted 
to seek repose once more, but the hungry lady grew more 
and more importunate, and he was forced at last to set 
out on a hunting excursion. His wife accompanied him to 
see that he did not shirk the task she had set him. After 
a long time they managed to track a wild buffalo. They 


skirmished and scouted, and finally succeeded in killing it. 
They opened the animal, extracted the desired delicacy, 
and then returned home to enjoy it. — The representation 
of this story has been repeated times without number, but 
it never fails to meet with popular approval. An actor 
first appears dressed as a Burmese woman. She next 
proceeds in very colloquial vernacular to bully her husband 
in accordance with the tradition. The buffalo used is a 
sham one. Four or five people throw a dark-coloured 
cloth over themselves, and the foremost of these holds in 
his hands a huge mask, supposed to be a buffalo's head. 
It would serve equally well for the head of any other 
creature known to natural history, for it is unlike anything 
but the fabulous creation of some man's mad imaginings. 
As the husband and wife chase the ungainly brute, it 
gambols to the music of a native band, in a circle about 
twenty feet in diameter. The dodging and running, the 
pretended attack, the sham wounds, and the awful groans 
are always received with the same loud bursts of hearty 
appreciative laughter. 

The game of " takraw " is popular with boys and youths, 
and is similar to tlie game of football as exhibited by the 
Burmese in recent years in London. The players, who may 
be of any number, stand in a ring. One of them tosses 
into the ring a light wicker ball. As it falls another player 
catches it on his foot, head, or shoulder. He at once passes 
it to someone else, without touching it with his hands. The 
ball passes swiftly from one spot to another^ and it is often 


kept up for quite a long time. If it falls to the earth, it 
is picked up and again tossed to the skilful players. And so 
the game proceeds until every one is tired. There is no 
scoring of points or winning of games. New-comers join in 
the fun and weary ones leave without in any way inter- 
fering with the amusement of the rest. The "fancy kicking" 
that is exhibited by expert players excites great admiration 
in natives and foreigners. 

Games in which the element of chance enters are the greatest 
favourites. The people are bom gamblers, and to make a 
bet is the delight of everyone, from prince to peasant They 
bet on the results of a cock-fight, a boxing match, a fight 
between crickets, or a combat between their pugilistic 
fishes. Even kite-flying is accompanied by unlimited " book- 
making." The Siamese are not to be compared with the 
Japanese in the art of constructing curious or beautiful kites, 
but they are certainly their equals in flying them. The 
most common form of kite is a five-pointed one — a pen- 
tagonal star. On pone of the kites, whatever may be their 
shape or size, is "tailing" ever used, and rarely does a 
native run in order to get the kite to rise. By a peculiar 
rapid jerking of the string, the kite is made to create its 
own wind when a natural one is not blowing. Men may 
often be seen on calm still days flying their kites from 
boats as they pass up and down the river. Kite contests 
are of frequent occurrence during the windy months. One 
Idte is called the male and the other the female. The object 
of the contest is the capturing of the female by the male. 








When they are both at a considerable height from the ground, 
one flyer so jerks the string of the male kite as to cause it 
to swoop downwards with great velocity. If the apex of 
the falling star strikes the body of the soaring female, it 
effectually wounds her and brings her to earth. But it is 
perhaps oftener luck than skill that ends the contest so 
suddenly. As a rule the string of the descending kite passes 
over the string of the steady one. Then the owner of the 
male toy checks its downward motion, and with a rapid 
pull of the string towards him, causes it to pass under the 
string that is attached to the female, and then to rise again. 
In this way one string is wound round the other. The 
operation is repeated a second and even a third time, 
after which the players each pull their kites towards them, 
let them go again, pull in again and so on, so that each 
string is sawing the other one. Excitement takes possession 
of the spectators and they begin to speculate as to which 
string will first break. They frequently stake large sums of 
money on the result of the aerial combat. In many instances 
the owner of the entangled female, manages by a skilful 
manipulation of the string to free her from the toils of her 
antagonist, who then once more pursues her, and manceuvres 
to compass her destruction. 

In every street there will always be found a Chinaman, 
wearing big goggles, sitting at a table in the front of an 
open house or shop, wearing upon his wooden countenance 
a quiet and meditative smile. By his side is a small pile 
of thin sheets of yellow paper, and a quantity of writing 


materiaL He is an agent of the gambling farmer and deals 
in lottery tickets. The Government farms out the monopoly 
and derives a considerable revenue from it, as in some 
years as much as thirty thousand pounds sterling has been 
paid for the privilege of being allowed to gently ease other 
people of their superfluous cash. The lottery farmer chooses, 
every day, one out of thirty-four characters of the alphabet 
as the lucky one for that day. He keeps the secret of his 
choice to himself, and leaves those people who are of a 
speculative turn of mind to guess the particular letter he 
has chosen. Everyone is at liberty to try his luck. The 
gambler goes to one of the numerous writers of lottery 
tickets and names a letter. The writer slowly inscribes the 
letter upon one of the sheets of paper. He then folds it 
up, and on the back states his own name and address, the 
name and address of the purchaser of the ticket, and the 
amount paid for the same. He keeps possession of the 
paper till the close of the day. The city is divided into 
districts, over each of which the lottery farmer places a 
trustwortliy overseer. Towards evening the overseer visits 
every ticket writer in his locality, collects all the papers, 
and the money paid for them. These he afterwards takes 
to the office of his chief. At a given hour the farmer 
declares the winning letter and the papers are opened. All 
those papers that do not bear the chosen character are 
thrown away and the money appropriated. Those who 
have been fortunate enough to guess correctly the letter 
for the day, receive back twenty-nine times their stake, so 


that the man who staked one pound receives twenty-nine 
as his reward. The chances in favour of the proprietor 
of the lottery are so great, and so many thousands of 
people patronise him every day that he can easily afford 
to award a prize of high value to the few winners. Some 
people endeavour to calculate their chances beforehand. 
In every writer's house is placed a board divided into 
squares. Every day from the beginning to the end of the 
month, the letter chosen is written in one of these squares. 
The board is consulted by those about to try their luck, 


and they try to work out a system which shall guide them 
in their choice. Many gamblers, especially if they are 
Chinese, consult their gods about the matter. They go to 
the temples and stand in front of the altar. There they 
find a bamboo box containing thirty-four strips of bamboo, 
on each of which is printed one of the letters used by the 
lottery farmers. They address the presiding deity of the 
place and promise him abundance of fat pork and chickens 
if only he will be so kind as to help them in their venture. 
After having made this tempting offer, one stick is chosen 


from the bundle. The gambler looks at it, and then won- 
ders if the gods are going to make sport of him. He pro* 
ceeds to test the sincerity of the deity. He takes two 
pieces of bamboo root, which have been flattened on the 
one side and rounded on the other. He throws them into 
the air, exclaiming as he does so, ** If I have chosen the 
right letter, let these two roots fall with the flat sides up." 
Suppose they fall as he desires, he repeats the experiment, 
saying, ''If I have chosen the right letter, let these two 
roots fall with the round side up." Even if success again 
crowns his experiment, he still feels inclined to doubt the 
playful deity to whom he is appealing for counsel. So he 
throws the roots yet once again — "If I have chosen the 
right letter let these two roots fall, one with the flat side 
up, and one with the round side up." If they should fall 
in this way, he is practically certain the gods are with 
him. He pawns everything he possesses and stakes every 
farthing he can obtain on the letter of his choice. Thirty- 
three chances to one that he loses, and he may spend the 
rest of his life in extreme poverty, bewailing the fickleness 
of the god he supplicated. 

Anyone who can write can set up a stand, for it is the 
policy of the farmer to have his agents scattered all over 
the city. The overseers are not directly paid for their 
services, but on the contrary, actually pay to be allowed 
to hold the office. The writers of the tickets receive a 
commission of one shilling for every forty-four shillings they 
hand to the overseers. The overseer receives from the 


farmer the same proportion of the total amount he collects 
each day. Thirty times the sum actually staked is handed 
to the writer of a correct letter. He then hands over to 
the winner twenty-nine times the sum, so that he gets a 
further profit of one-thirtieth of all the winning money that 
passes through his hands. 

A few years ago, the gambling farmer lost a considerable 
sum of money through his own indiscretion. He had obtained 
a new wife of great beauty, of whom he was passionately 
fond. One day she asked him what letter he had chosen 
for the winning one. " Why do you wish to know?" said he. 
Woman-like, she replied, "Oh, I merely asked you out of 
curiosity.** "Well," said the infatuated adorer, "promise 
me that you will on no account reveal it to any single 
person you may meet. Remember^ if people were to know 
what letter I had chosen, I should lose a tremendous sum 
of money." The new favourite answered, "I promise not 
to tell.*' He gave her the letter, and faithful to her promise, 
she kept the secret. But she went to one of the writers 
and staked all the money she had on what she knew was 
to be the lucky character. The writer knew who she was, 
and jokingly asked her why she had chosen that particular 
letter. She answered that she had simply selected it as 
any one else might have done in order try her luck. Several 
people standing by , heard the conversation, and learning 
that the chief had been to see her the day before in her 
own quarters, they thought it extremely probable that she 
was in possession of that day's winning number. They 


promptly followed her example, with the result that her 
confiding spouse lost several thousand doUars on the day's 
transactions. He at once accused her of betraying his trust, 
and although she pleaded her innocence, be sold her within 
a few days to gratify his want of revenge, or perhaps, to 
recoup himself in part for the losses he had sustained as 
the result of his own folly. 

In the small gambling houses that abound, various games 
of chance are played all day. They are open to the road, 
and are always fairly well filled. Idlers strolling by with 
an odd cent in their waistband, step in and lose it, and 
then pass on their way to give place to others who seek 
easily-made fortunes. The games played require no skill 
on the part of those who play. It is all pure chance, as the 
following descriptions will show. 

The Mat Game. On the floor is spread a mat with two 

lines drawn across it at right angles to each other, as shown 

^ *^ *^® diagram. The banker sits in the position 

>y2/^ marked A, and the numbers i, 2, 3, 4 are 
/ >v placed as here indicated. In front of the banker 

pi^ is a big pile of cowrie shells. He takes up as many 

I—-' as he can hold in his two hands and places 
them in front of him. The crowd then place any amount 
they like on any one of the four numbers. Suppose, for 
example, that there are four playing and that each places 
a shilling on a different number. When all those who wish 
to play have put down their money, the proprietor begins 
to count out the shells he has taken from a large heap, 


and to place them in small piles of four each, and notes 
the remainder when all the shells have been disposed of. 
If there is a remainder of two, then the man whose money 
is on two gets his stake doubled. Number four loses, and 
numbers one and three neither lose nor gain. If there is 
a remainder of three, the money on three is doubled, 
number one loses, and numbers two and four remain 
unaltered. If there are twenty or thirty people playing, 
the principle is the same. All those who have guessed the 
right reAiainder get their money doubled, the opposite 
numbers lose, and the others neither win nor lose. If there 
is no remainder then the winning number is four. One 
variation in the method of staking is allowed. The money 
may be placed on any one of the four diagonal lines. 
Suppose the stake is laid on the line between three and 
two, then if either three or two be the remainder the money 
is doubled, but if one or four wins, then the money is 
lost. Porcelain counters of very small value are used at 
these places, and so common is the gambling habit, that 
these counters are used in the markets for the purchase 
of goods, for both buyers and sellers know that the gam- 
bler's coins can easily be disposed of again If a banker 
fails, he is unable to redeem his porcelain coinage and 
the holders are then liable to lose the value of the counters 
in their possession. 

Brass Cup Game. The necessary apparatus for this form 
of speculation is a small brass cup and a wooden cube. 
The upper face of the cube is divided by a line into two 


halves, one of which is painted red and the other white. 
The banker puts the cube on the table in any position he 
chooses, without letting the people see how it is placed. 
He covers it with the brass cup. The players put down 
their stakes in various positions round the cup. The banker 
raises the cup. All money opposite the white edge is 
returned at the rate of three to one, while all opposite the 
other three sides passes into the banker's pocket. 

The Animal Game. This is a very favourite amusement 
at fairs. A board is provided which measures about eighteen 
inches by twenty. It is divided by lines into a number of 
equal oblongs. In each space is painted some animal. The 
owner has three large wooden dice with figures painted on 
the sides corresponding to those in the squares on the board. 
Those who wish to try their luck choose a picture and 
place their money thereon. The three dice are placed in a 
cocoa-nut shell, and rattled about, and then thrown on a 
table. The winning pictures are those that appear on the 
topmost faces of the three cubes. 

Gambling with cards is very common. The cards are all 
of Chinese pattern, and measure three inches by one. On 
them are printed kings, governors, soldiers, officials, and 
other important personages. There are one hundred and 
sixteen cards in a pack, but what are the rules that govern 
their complicated manipulation the writer has failed to 
fathom, even as he has also failed to find any other Euro- 
pean who could furnish the requisite explanation. 

Chess is one of the few pastimes that is not used for 


betting purposes. The game is substantially the same as 
that played in England, but a boat replaces the castle, the 
bishop is represented by a nobleman, and the knight's 
moves are made by a horse. There are many skilful players, 
and the present Minister for Foreign Affairs, Prince Deva- 
wongse, can checkmate most of the foreigners who have 
had the opportunity of playing with him. The real Siamese 
chessmen are difficult to obtain as they are made only for 
private use and not for sale. The poorer classes readily 
make up a full set when they want a game, by using 
buttons or cowries for the pawns and modelling the rest 
of the pieces out of bits of soft clay. 

But the most popular of all amusements is the theatre. 
It is the delight of old and young alike, and is intensely 
interesting to the foreigner, as probably representing to a 
very large degree, the primitive way in which the dramas 
that were presented to his forefathers, were staged and 
enacted. It possesses an additional attraction inasmuch 
as it is yet a purely native institution, unaffected by those 
Western influences that are so rapidly destroying in the 
East the many Oriental manners and customs that were 
once the delight of the traveller. Yokohama is a European 
seaport. There are English policemen in Shanghai, and 
cafi^s in Saigon. In Bangkok itself electric lights and tram- 
cars have appeared, and one of the latest orders of the 
Court requires that at all future state ceremonies the 
native shall discard his own picturesque costume for frockT 

coat, European trousers, and top hat. So far, however, the 



Siamese theatre has remained unaffected by these modern 

The theatre of the capital may differ from that of the 
province, but the differences are those demanded by native 
taste alone. It is in all cases admirably suited to a people 
of fertile imagination and simple habits. Spectacular displays 
and gorgeous transformation scenes are neither expected 
nor given. Realism is not demanded in any form. Except 
in the matter of dress, simplicity characterises the whole 
performance. Great attention is paid to the pattern and the 
material of the costumes. They are of a regulation type — 
heroes, angels, soldiers, and monarchs being arrayed accord- 
ing to fashions that have descended from generation to 
generation. Cloth of gold, richly embroidered cloaks, and 
expensive jewels, make up the wardrobe of the richer 

There is only one theatre in the capital to which any 
admission fee is charged and where regular performances 
are held. On dark nights when the moon is hidden the 
theatre is closed, for there would be no light to go home 
by, but as soon as the new moon appears again, the 
doors are opened and the people flock to the only place 
of amusement that can successfully compete with the rival 
attractions of the gambling hells and opium dens. All 
other theatrical performances take place as a rule at private 
houses on the occasion of a wedding, a cremation, or any 
other public or private ceremony at which large crowds of 
people congregate. 


The various troupes of performers are the private pro- 
perty of certain noblemen, who gjreatly pride themselves on 
the skill and beauty of their *' prima-donnas ". There are 
also bands of players who stroll from place to place and 
depend for their living on the voluntary offerings of the 
spectators. Occasionally they find their services required 
for some domestic celebration. At other times they perform 
in the open air, or in any odd empty shed they inay 
happen to discover in the course of their wanderings. 

There are two kinds of theatre— the "lakhon" and the 
"yeegai". The former, which stands highest in public 
estimation is probably derived from the Nautch dances of 
India. At one time there was a large Brahmin settiement 
in the town of Ligore, which is situated to the north-east 
of the Malay Peninsula. These emigrants from India 
brought with them a number of nautch girls whose dances 
were highly appreciated by the people of the land in which 
they had newly settled. The native name for Ligore is 
Lakhon, and when the dancers went from place to place, 
they were known as " The actors fi"om Lakhon," and later 
on simply as the "lakhons". The word passed into the 
common speech and is now used as the name for ** theatre ". 
The members of the "lakhon" companies are all women 
with the exception of a few clowns. They seldom produce 
any new or original plays. Those that they act over and 
over again are chiefly translations of Hindoo myths, and 
are intolerably long, Several hours a night for a fortnight 
would be required for the complete performance of some 


of these lengthy dramas. This is no barrier to the enjoy- 
ment of the audience, for the stories of the plays are the 
only literature that they constantly read. They are there- 
fore thoroughly familiar with the plot, the characters, and 
all the incidents of the dramas performed before them. It 
follows that they never need to attend the theatre from 
night to night in order to follow the development of the 
story. In fact, the better they know the play, and the 
oftener they see it performed, the more they enjoy it 

There is no acting in our sense of the word. The words 
of the play are dolefully chanted by a chorus of women, 
whose screeching voices produce sounds that are painfully 
unmusical when judged from the European standpoint The 
only words uttered by the actresses themselves are similarly 
chanted at times when they feel that the situation has 
reached a climax, and consequently needs an extra amount 
of noise to make it thoroughly effective. The orchestra 
employed is called the "Mahoree", and contains twenty- 
one instruments when complete. The instruments used are 
chiefly of the percussion type and are powerful sound 
producers. Amongst them are drums, cymbals, tom-toms, 
gongs and bamboo dulcimers. Stringed instruments are 
represented by a few squeaky one-stringed fiddles and an 
instrument that resembles a zither. A terrible wind instru- 
ment is sometimes employed when it is desirable to pro- 
duce a sound that can be calculated to rival that of the 
bagpipes when played by a zealous but unmusical amateur. 
The use of the band is chiefly to mark the rhythm of the 



chorus and to produce effective noisy bursts of sound in 
important scenes. Any embrace between a pair of lovers is 
emphasised by a forcible hammering of drums and clashing 
of cymbals. They know nothing of harmony, but musical 
experts with well-trained ears, say that they play in unison. 
There is nothing natural in the actions of the performers 
except as regards those 'of the clowns. The funny men 
are the only ones who ever say anything in their natural 
voices or who ever move their limbs in a common everyday 
manner. The ladies go through a series of posturing evolu- 
tions euphemistically called dances. They are nothing more 
than extraordinary contortions of the body accompanied 
by equally strange motions of the limbs. The fingers are 
bent backwards from the joints, and the arms backwards 
from the elbows in a way no untrained person could 
ever possibly imitate. From early childhood the fingers 
and arms are daily bent out of place until finally they 
become, as it were, double jointed. The actresses whiten 
their faces with powder and do not relieve their ghostly 
appearance with any touch of colour. They fasten on 
the finger-tips artificial gold finger-nails of abnormal 
length. The audience either stands or sits on the floor, 
and smokes incessantly. The stage is simply a portion of 
the floor marked out by mats, round the sides of which 
sit those members of the audience who are nearest the 
performers. There is a raised seat or small platform at 
the back of the stage for the use of those who represent 
kings and queens in the different scenes. At the back of 


the seat is the common dressing-room of the whole com- 
pany. It is partially or completely open to the public 
gaze, and a small crowd always gathers there to see the 
fair ones powder and adorn themselves. The strolling 
troupes dispense with even this imitation of a dressing-room, 
and prepare themselves for their parts in full view of the 
audience. They carry their belongings in old kerosine 
tins, which they arrange along one side of the shed in which 
they are performing. 

If a horse is required, an actress comes on the stage, wearing 
a piece of head-gear shaped like a horse's head. It is not 
worn as a mask to cover the face, but as a hat on the 
top of the head. The rider does not mount her steed, 
but places her hand on its shoulder and walks by its side. 
Monkeys and elephants play important parts in the old 
legends, and they are represented in the same simple fashion; 
though one private company in Bangkok boasts a real 
elephant that has been trained for theatrical performances. 

A voyage at sea is undertaken without ships. One of 
the players crosses the stage, having a pole in imitation 
of a mast fastened to his chest From the top floats the 
national flag, while pieces of thin cord are fastened from 
the same point to the neck and shoulders of the player to 
represent rigging. The passengers then embark by arranging 
themselves in two long lines behind the man with the pole. 
When they are all safely aboard, the stern of the vessel 
arrives and forms the tail end of the procession. He also 
bears a pole, a fls^, and a quantity of string rigging, and 


attached to his back is a wooden rudder, the cords of which 
are held by the passenger immediately in front of him. 
They then sail away, rolling their supple bodies in time to 
the music, in imitation of the rolling motion of a vessel at 
sea. They cross the stage, pass out at one side, and re-enter 
at the other, time after time, as though they were trying 
to impress the audience with the tedious and protracted 
nature of their journey. 

The possession of a tin sword is a sufficient indication 
of a warrior; while a tall tapering crown is the symbol of 
monarchial authority. 

Occasionally there is a villain in the piece, who after 
some wicked deed, finds it necessary to conceal his 
whereabouts. This appears at first sight to be a very 
difHcult matter, for the stage is absolutely bare of every- 
thing that could possibly afford the slightest concealment. 
The difficulty is soon surmounted. If he needs a wall 
behind which to hide himself, a bamboo screen with a hole 
in the middle is at once pushed on the stage in full view 
of the audience. He retires behind it, and the spectators 
then enjoy the comical sight of a hero seeking and finding 
not, while the villain amuses himself by watching through 
the hole in the screen the fruitless efforts made to discover 
his hiding-place. If he is supposed to be concealed in a 
wood, a banana leaf or a branch of a tree is handed to 
him, and he holds it with his hands in front of his face. 
Again the hero is disappointed in his search, and when 
tired out with his long and unrewarded exertions, he plucks 


fruit from off the branch behind which the villain is in 
safe retirement, the audience roars with delight. 
• The eagerness and keen enthusiasm with which the 
spectators receive all these primitive methods of dramatic 
reprcientation, are conclusive proof that they are endowed 
with strong imaginations. 

The "yeegai" is of a different character entirely. It is 
Malay in origin. The performers are all men or boys, and 
belong generally to the lower classes. Chorus and orchestra 
are not considered indispensable, the former being always 
absent, and the latter generally consisting of seven large 
drums. There is no posturing and fantastic dancing, but 
genuine acting. The old legends give way to more modem 
and original works of a strictly farcical character. The 
buffoonery is excellent, but the language is nearly always 
coarse. Current events are burlesqued, and foreign residents 
with pronounced mannerisms get caricatured. 

Whatever be the play or wherever it be performed, 
luxuriously upholstered boxes and special incidental music 
are not required, for the story itself is of sufficient interest 
to the people to capture their hearts and minds without 
the assistance of any expensive and elaborate furniture. 



Within the limits of die crowded capital one can easily 
study closely the superstitions, the customs, and the cere- 
monies of the people. But if any idea is to be gained of 
the industries of the country, it is necessary to pass from 
the busy canals and the crowded highways into the wide 
plains beyond. In the busy city the Siamese are shop- 
keepersi policemen, postmen, soldiers and government 
officials. The mechanics and artisans are Chinese. There 
is no sign of any native industry, no weaving of cloth, 
tanning of leather or manufacture of anything beautiful or 
useful. The city is the mart; the goods that are sold * 
therein are made or grown in other localities. Travel into 
the jungle or the field, and then you may find the native 
at work, earning his living, and spending his life in the 
most primitive manner. It may here be stated that it is 
not an easy matter to travel even a short distance in 
Siam, and very few of the foreign residents ever make a 
trip except for business purposes. 

The journey to every place must be commenced by 
water, either in a house-boat or in a steamer. The house-i 


boat is about eighteen feet long and four feet beam, and 
is rowed by a number of strong skilful boatmen. The 
number of men varies from two to eight according to the 
size of the boat. The man at the stern manages the rudder 
with his foot while he rows with his hands. All the men 
stand to their work, and row after the native fashion. In 
the centre of the boat is a small hut or cabin, which is 
about three feet high, so that its occupant can only lie 
therein. Standing or sitting is impossible, and the oper- 
ations of dressing, washing and eating are performed under 
trying conditions. The deck planks are all removable, and 
under these must be stowed away sufficient clothing and 
provisions to last the traveller during the whole of his 
trip, for no matter where he travels, he can never replenish 
his larder or his wardrobe. The Chinese cook, who is an 
indispensable part of every expedition, sleeps and cooks at 
the back of the boat, in a space about three feet square. 
He shelters himself during the heat of the day with a big 
paper umbrella, and sleeps at night on the floor of his 
kitchen. He prepares his master's meals just as though he 
were surrounded with all the ordinary utensils supposed 
necessary in the practice of culinary art, and when they 
are ready, he acts as waiter and hands them into the 
cabin through a small window in the back. The traveller's 
limbs get very sore with constantly lying on a hard mat- 
tress ; but he has little opportunity of taking exercise, for 
the jungle comes down to the water's edge in most places 
that are uniuhabited. These house-boats are only used for 



inland journeys as they would soon be capsized in a 
rough sea. 

One thing that soon strikes the wanderer is the presence 


of the Chinese. In the most secluded hamlet, and in the 
deepest jungle, wherever men are gathered together, there 
are the Celestials in the midst of them, doing the chief 
share of the work, and taking the largest share of the 


profits. The wealth of the country consists in its agricul- 
tural produce. Rice is the chief food article cultivated, and 
will be dealt with in the succeeding chapter. But at Chan- 
taboon, now in the hands of the French, excellent pepper 
is g^own. Coffee has only recently been introduced, and 
it too flourishes in the neighbourhood of the same port 
Sugar-cane is very plentiful, but is little used for the 
making of sugar. Where the refineries do exist they belong 
to the Chinese. The tobacco plant that is grown is very 
rank, and too powerful 'in its effects to become popular 
with Europeans. If it were properly cured and prepared, it 
might be more palatable. Amongst the other agricultural 
products may be mentioned hemp, cotton, cocoa-nut, areca- 
nut, maize, teak, bamboo, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, indigo, 
a little tea in the far north, and fruit of many varieties. 

Petchabooree is a t}rpical Siamese i^cultural village. 
It is easily reached by house-boat from Bangkok in two or 
three days. Through the village runs a clear silvery stream 
with a white sandy bed. On each side of the stream 
extends a double row of wooden houses, under which lie 
innumerable pariahs. Between the double line is a narrow 
passage forming the street, market, and pleasure-ground of 
the inhabitants. Buffaloes come down to the river for 
water at regular hours twice each day. On the broad 
plains in the neighbourhood rice is grown. A few miles 
away is a Laos settlenient, occupied by the descendants of 
prisoners of war who were once placed here to till the soil 
for those who captured them. They still preserve their 



dark striped petticoats, and are never seen without their 
long knives at their waists. They spend most of their 
time at this particular place in manufacturing sugar from 
the sugar palm. When the fruit appears upon the tree, 
a man climbs to the top, and cuts it off. To the cut stalk 
he fastens the hollow stem of a bamboo, about eighteen 


inches long. As the juice oozes from the cut surface it 
drops into the wooden cylinder. When this is filled it is 
removed, and replaced by another. The juice is collected 
and boiled in iron pans under an attap-thatched shed. 
The furnace is of very simple construction. A trough is 
dug in the earth, and the hole thus made filled with wood. 
A light is applied, and then the pan is placed on the 
ground, with its centre over the hollow dug-out fireplace. 
Fresh wood is pushed into the hole when required. As 


the wood costs nothing and the iron pan is cheap, the 
manufacture of sugar in this primitive fashion is not at all 
costly. The thick syrupy liquid is put into big wooden 
barrels, and sent to Bangkok to be further boiled and 
converted into sugar. The fresh juice of the sugar palm 
is sweet and refreshing, but when it begins to ferment it 
is a powerful intoxicant. 

There are many pretty places on the shores of the Gulf 
of Siam, but these can only be visited by steamer. They 
are charmingly picturesque, the bathing is excellent, and 
the fish are delicious. No steamers call at these desirable 
spots, there are no hotels, and except for fish they have 
no food for sale. Only one of them — Anghin, has any 
house in which a foreigner would care to reside. The vil- 
lage of Anghin (''stone basins") is so called because there 
are several large hollows in the granite rocks, where rain 
water cojilects in the wet season. Public attention was 
first drawn to the place in 1868, when a notice appeared 
in the local papers in these words:— 

" H. E. Ahon Phya Bhibakrwongs Maha Kosa Dhipude, the 
Pra Klang, Minister for Foreign Affairs, has built a sani- 
tarium at Anghin for the benefit of the public. It is for 
the benefit of Siamese, Europeans, or Americans, who may 
go and occupy it when unwell, to restore their health. All 
are cordially invited to go there for a suitable length of 
time and be happy, but are requested not to remain month 
after month, and year after year, and regard it as a place 
without an owner. To regard it in this way cannot be 



allowed, for it is public property, and others should go and 
stop there also." 

For a time a few people went, but the sanitarium is 
now in ruins, and is only habitable in dry weather when 


holes in roofs and walls are no inconvenience to the visitor. 
It is necessary when visiting this lovely little spot to take 
with one all the provisions required during the stay, a 
plentiful supply of pure water, and every article of fur- 
niture, such as beds, tables, chairs, and wardrobes. Having 



collected all these things, a small steamer is next required 
to convey them and their owner to his destination. An 
English resident in Bangkok who wished to take a holiday 
there, bargained with a native merchant for the loan of a 
vessel. The native promised faithfully that the steamer 
should be at a certain landing near the Englishman's house 
by one o'clock in the afternoon of the day mentioned. 
Early in the morning he removed all his baggage to the 
riverside. He was surrounded by baskets of ducks, baskets 
of chickens, hams in canvas bags, jars of rain water, boxes 
of soda water, pans, pots, furnaces, chairs, tables, mattresses 
books, camera, and sketching material. A few friends who 
were going to accompany him helped to keep guard over 
this motley collection. At one o'clock no steamer was 
visible, but there was nothing very surprising in that fact, 
as the Oriental does not know the meaning of punctuality. 
But when two o'clock passed, then three o'clock, and then 
four, he felt that something had gone wrong. One of the 
party went to make enquiries. He returned after dark to 
say that the propeller of the steamer was broken, and that 
the steamer was in dock, but that she would be at the 
landing by seven the next morning. All the boxes and 
furniture were sadly and slowly conveyed back to the 
house again. One of the boxes was opened, and a dinner 
made of soda water and corned beef. The host and his 
guests slept as best they could, on the floors of the dining- 
room and the drawing-room. 

At seven the next morning all the holiday traps were 


carried out and placed on the landing, where they were 
speedily surrounded by a crowd of jeering natives who 
scoffingly enquired when the party proposed to start. They 
endured this until four o'clock in the afternoon, when the 
vessel did at last put in an appearance. They embarked as 
rapidly as possible, and began their journey at night. There 
was only one cabin, which was dirty beyond descripdoni 
and swarming with spiders and cockroaches. In the middle 
of the night it began to rain, so they wrapped themselves up 
in cloaks and waterproofs and slept on deck under the tables. 
One of them asked the Malay skipper why the vessel was 
going so slowly. Said he, with an amused smile, " This boat 
go half-speed. This boiler got many holes. Go full-speed— 
burst r* Then he chuckled. When about two miles from 
Anghin the recently mended propeller broke and sank. Ev- 
erything was landed by means of one small boat. The sanita- 
rium had been untenanted for many months by human beings, 
but thousands of ants, spiders, cockroaches, and lizards had 
made themselves at home there. The men opened some tins 
of kerosine and flooded the place with it All the creatures 
that were not destroyed by it were driven away by its 
obnoxious smell, and in a short time the place was rendered 
habitable. Perhaps the reader will now understand why it is 
that European residents in Siam seldom go to the sea-side. 
There is not much difference between a fishing and an 
agricultural village. There is the same double row of houses 
with the street between, and the back doors of each of the 
houses nearest the sea or river, facing the water. 


Along the beach small heaps of sea-shells are found at 
intervals of a few yards. They have been collected by the 
villagers, who send them in small sailing boats to Bangkok 
where they are used for making lime. The lime-kilns are 
made of bricks in the shape of a shallow box. The floor 
has a number of apertures, and some fire is placed beneath. 
In the box a layer of shells lies upon a layer of straw and 
charcoal. Then comes another layer of fuel and another 
layer of shells, and so on until the box is full. A blast 
of air is driven into it by a fan connected to treadles. 
There is no covering to the kiln, and the fumes that rise 
have several times been fatal to the workmen. 

From the beach can be seen, at low tide, long lines of 
poles radiating in all directions. These form the fishing 
traps that are used chiefly for catching a fish called "plah-tu." 
It is about the size of a herring, tastes like trout when 
fresh, and like kippers when smoked. During the north- 
east monsoon these fish are driven in great shoals to the 
northern end of the gulf, and while this wind continues to 
blow the fishermen are kept busily employed. The fishing 
stakes are long slender poles. They are fixed in the bed 
of the sea about forty inches apart from each other, in 
double rows, forming a funnel-shaped passage with a very 
wide entrance or mouth. Several funnels converge upon a 
central circular or rectangular structure also made of thin 
poles, which we may for convenience call the trap. Nets 
are fixed in it by cords so as to be ready for use when 
the fishermen pay it a visit. The radiating lines are oflen 









half a mile long, and as they move to and fro in the restless 
sea they form an impassable barrier to the timid fish, who 
are driven by the currents into the trap, from which they 
seem unable to find their way out The boats usually go 
out at sunset, and they form a very pretty picture as they 
skim lightly over the buoyant waves, their yellow porous 
mat-sails catching rosy or orange hues from the setting 
sun, which are again mirrored in deeper shades in the 
purple waters below. On reaching the trap the men let down 
their nets, only to haul them up again a few minutes later, 
laden with silvery fish. The boats return about daybreak. 
Their coming is eagerly awaited by the whole population, 
who turn out to receive them. Buffalo carts are also ready 
to carry the fish from the boats to the village. In the 
village the night's booty is sorted and examined. The fish 
are cleaned and the gills removed, all the refuse being 
thrown into strong brine. The briny solution of fishy odds 
and ends is afterwards sold as "fish sauce". The best 
fish are very lightly steamed and then packed in flat circular 
baskets, put on board the swiftest sailing boats, and sent 
off to Bangkok. A certain amount is sold to people near at 
hand, or used for food by the villagers themselves. The 
remainder are either smoked, or packed with brine in deep 
pits in the ground. When well salted the fish is dried 
and exported. The value of the fish exported is about 
one and a half million dollars. It finds great favour with 
the Chinese. The Javanese too buy large quantities of the 
salted fish, chiefly on account of the salt that they purchase 


at the same ttme, for pure salt is a very dear luxury in 
that island. The decaying rotten refuse is used as manure 
in the kitchen gardens of the Chinese. If its properties as 
a manure are half as powerful as its odour, it should be 
extremely valuable. 

But "plah-tu" are not the only fish caught in this out 
of the way comer of the earth. Prawns are plentiful, and 
they are caught in nets of very small mesh. Two boats 
go out tc^ether from the shore for a little distance and 
then separate. From boat to boat is suspended a net 
heavily weighted to make it sink. When the net is fully 
extended the boats move towards the shore, dragging it 
with them. In this way thousands of prawns and small fish 
are easily caught. Prawns are pounded into a paste with 
salt The mixture is not unlike anchovy sauce. 

Mussels and many other shell-fish are obtained in an 
easy manner. Long poles are driven into the sand in water 
where these creatures are known to abound, and left there 
for some time. After a while they are covered with the 
shell-fish, which have fastened on the poles. To pull up the 
pole and scrape off the deposit is but the work of a few 

The buffalo carts used in the villages in this part of 
Siam, are peculiar-looking conveyances. But they are admi- 
rably fitted for the rough work for which they are built. 
They are used between villages on the coast at times 
when boats cannot pass from place to place, and also 
between places inland where no canals exist. Their construe- 

I ^ 


tion will be better understood from the accompanying 
illustration than from any written description, but a few 
points may be noticed. The hood over the top is not for 
protection from sun or rain. There are no roads in the 
jungle, though here and there, there are a few tracks. 
The buffaloes literally force their way through the dense 
undergrowth, the eye of the experienced driver always 
telling him where the most passable spots are to be found. 
The hood protects the head of the driver or his passengers 
from the branches of the trees that obstruct the way. 
Without it they would be unable to travel at all in any 
place where the vegetative growth was at all thick. The 
projecting side pieces in a similar way keep the wheels 
from getting entangled in the undergrowth. The bottom 
of the cart is at a good distance from the ground, for very 
often the way lies through swamps or flooded marshes so 
deep that only the heads of the buffaloes can be seen 
above the mud and water. In such places the animals 
frequently lie down to cool themselves. This in no way 
endangers the cart, as the beasts are not harnessed to it in 
any way. The yoke is simply laid across their necks, and 
prevented from slipping by straight pieces of wood on each 
side. When passengers travel, a plank is placed at about 
the level of the driver's elbow in the picture. The reins 
are of rope, and the bell round the neck is a hollowed 
piece of wood with two or three wooden tongues inside it. 
Owing to the uneven character of the ground the cart 
sways from side to side, and produces in most people who 



experience the motion for the first time, a feeling aldn to 
sea-sickness. As the plank, on which the traveller sits 
cross-legged, is near the top of the vehicle, his head is 
dangerously near the roof. Every time the cart gives a 
sudden lurch to one side, he receives a smart rap on the 
side or top of his head. As a rule he recoils from the 
blow only to receive another on the other side as the 
vehicle recovers its equilibrium. The huge wheels, unsupplied 
with metal bearings, creak and groan with awful ceaseless 

In many places valuable minerals are said to exist. Gold, 
rubies^ sapphires, and diamonds have been found, but so 
far have not been obtained in very large quantities. In 
the Siamese provinces in the Malay Peninsula, tin is 
exceedingly abundant and is mined by the Chinese. 

In the northern provinces there are numerous valuable 
teak forests, from which the Government derives a very large 
revenue. Nearly the whole of the teak that is used in 
building the ships of the different nations of the world, 
comes from the extensive forests of Upper Burmah and 
Northern Siam. Much of the teak that is exported from 
Moulmein and sold as Burmese or Indian, is really obtained 
from Siamese forests lying between the River Meping and 
the River Salween. The forests of Burmah have been 
worked for a much longer period than those of Siam, 
and the logs obtained therefrom are of inferior quality and 
smaller girth. The teak forests of Siam are worked with 
British capital alone, no French or Germans being engaged 



in the trade. The agents of the British firms live at the 
scene of the lumberii^ operations, and are personally re- 
sponsible for the hiring of the forests, the cutting of the 
wood, and its subsequent exportation to Bangkok. The 
different firms have saw-mills of their own in the city, and 
they trim and cut the logs before they are finally sent 
abroad. The leases for the forests are obtained from the 
Lao chiefs in whose districts they stand, but the terms of 
the leases are often subject to revision by the Siamese 
Commissioners. The trees are killed before they are felled, 
by having a ring cut in the bark, about two or three feet 
from the ground. The "girdled" stem is left for nearly 
three years before it is cut down, as it is not properly 
dead before that time. The only method of transport 
possible in places where there is no water, is by elephants, 
and this form of transportation is so very expensive that 
the workings are mostly confined to the banks or the 
immediate vicinity of the streams. Teak trees unfortunately 
do not grow in clusters or groves, but only in isolated 
spots, often separated from each other by considerable 
distances, so that the question of carriage is financially a 
very important one. 

Felling takes place during the rainy season when the 
ground is soft and wet, so that the trees as they fall are 
not likely to sustain any serious damage. Three labourers 
working together are able to fell three trees in one day. 
The rough logs are piled side by side until they are 
removed by the elephants. One of these strong sagacious 


creatures is harnessed to the log by ropes. He drags it 
over the ground to the nearest water, his work being con- 
siderably lightened by the aid of rude rollers placed aloi^ 
the track. The elephants on reaching the water, pile up 
the logs on the bank, until the buyer or the agent has 
examined them. The owner places his own mark on them 
for purposes of identification, and then the elephants roll 
them into the water, and place them in positions that 
render their being bound into rafts a comparatively easy 
matter. Thieves make themselves busy at such times, 
breaking up rafts, stealing logs from which they obliterate 
the owner's mark, and disposing of them as rapidly as 
possible at nominal values to the first customer they can 
find. They keep on the look-out for stray elephants too, 
and occasionally manage to get safely away with their 
valuable spoil. No replanting goes on, and great waste of 
timber is caused by the servants of the lessees. The forests 
will ultimately be destroyed unless some regulations are 
made with regard to the girth of the trees cut down, and 
the replanting of fresh ones in the places of those that 
have been felled. The loss that the world will experience 
from the loss of the wood, will be infinitesimal compared 
with the injury that is likely to fall upon the country 
itself in the changed climatic conditions that invariably 
attend such wholesale deforestation. 

Very fine trees are allowed to stand because the natives 
are afraid to cut them down. Within any giant of the 
forest they suppose powerful spirits to be embodied, and 


they are afraid to call down upon themselves unforeseen 
and terrible visitations of anger from the spirits who 
inhabit them. 

The viUagers in all parts of the country are very hos- 
pitable and kindly disposed towards travellers. They show 
their politeness in their extreme inquisitiveness. They poke 
their noses into everything, and beg old bottles and sar- 
dine tins from the cook, at the same time making little 
presents of eggs and fish. In very remote places the white 
skin of the European is a great curiosity, but they never 
molest any traveller whatever his colour, nor do they inter 
fere with his personal liberty. On the other hand, every 
one, from the governor of the district down to the lowest 
slave, will do all they can to help the wanderer, provided 
he treats them with that courtesy and respect which they 
are prepared to show to him. Sometimes a native with a 
little mischief in his nature will attempt a practical joke, 
but it is usually of such a harmless character that only 
a very disagreeable person would be likely to experience 
any great annoyance. A fisherman one day visited a small 
party of Europeans who were encamped in his neighbour- 
hood, and offered to sell them an animal for food. The 
creature had neither head, feet, nor tail, but their absence 
was explained by the vendor, who said he had removed 
them in order to save the white men trouble. He further 
stated that the animal was a hare that he had trapped in 
the jungle. None of the party knew very much about 

anatomy, but they felt rather dubious as to the truth of 



the man's statements. One of them, quite thoughtlessly and 
casually, observed, ** Perhaps it is a dog." A broad grin 
spread over the wily fisherman's face, for the stray shot 
had hit the mark. He retired roaring with laughter, and 
exclaimed in the vernacular, *• Master very clever, very 
clever I" 

They are generally frightened by a camera, but it is a 
strange thing that nowhere do the priests object to having 
their photographs taken and printed. In fact, as soon as 
they learn the nature of the apparatus they become a per- 
fect nuisance by the eagerness they express to be photo- 
graphed. They will come every morning to the tent or 
hut where the photographer is encamped, dressed in their 
best Sunday robes, and wait about all day, in the hope of 
being "taken." They express considerable astonishment 
at the coloured and inverted picture seen on the ground- 
glass screen at the back of the camera, and they are un- 
able to understand why prints cannot be instantaneously 
produced. A very picturesque old Peguan was once entreated 
to sit for his portrait by a man who was travelling. The 
ancient one hesitated, and thought, and consulted his 
family. He was allowed to look through the ground glass 
and see the faces of a few of his friends thereon. That 
decided the point. He threw his fears and scruples to the 
winds, and posed himself in a graceful attitude astride a 
water-jar. The photographer focussed and adjusted his 
machine, snapped the shutter, shut up the slide, and ex- 
claimed, **It is finished." Then the old man came up to 


have a look. When he found that his picture was not ready 
at once, he felt that he had been grossly deceived, and his 
remarks were such that the photographer deemed it wise 
to seek for the company of his friends. 

The sight of the coloured picture on the ground-glass 
screen of the camera, led a few villagers to commit an 
amusing error. After looking at it for some time, they went 
to another spot to watch an artist who was at work there 
at the same time. They decided amongst themselves that 
his work was a superior form of photography, and that as 
he drew his brushes across the canvas they made the 
coloured picture come up through the back. Their theory 
worked excellently for a while, but when the artist began 
to put in boats in places in the picture which did not 
correspond to those in the landscape, they felt that the 
machine had gone wrong, and departed, murmuring that it 
wasn't a very good "picture-box" after all. 



The natives of Siam depend absolutely on rice for 
their very existence. It is the only necessary article of 
food. Should the supply fail, there is nothing to take its 
place. All other forms of food are, comparatively speak- 
ing, luxuries. Abundance of rice means life; scarcity of 
rice brings famine and death. The failure of the crops in 
Siam would produce a famine as far-reaching and as disas- 
trous in its results as those of India, which have at different 
times evoked to such a large degree, the practical sym- 
pathies of the English people. And yet, despite the terri- 
ble nature of the disaster which would attend any sensible 
diminution in the supply of this all-necessary and all-suffi- 
cient article of food, the methods of cultivation are primi- 
tive to the last degree, and are carried on with agricultural 
implements of the rudest possible character. 

When a farmer increases the area of the land under 
cultivation, by buying or stealing a new piece of wooded 
ground or jungle for the purpose of cultivating rice, he 
commences his farming operations by burning down the 
whole of the timber in order to save himself the trouble of 


Page 212. 



cutting it. In this way, with the maximum of waste and 
the minimum of labour, the ground is cleared. 

It is next ploughed with an instrument the total cost of 
which is about three shillings. Roughly speaking, the plough 
is merely a crooked stick with one handle. If a piece of 


wood or cane be bent into two portions, one longer than 
the other, and if the shorter portion of the cane be fastened 
into a heavy block of wood pointed at one end, while 
the longer arm is held in the hand, a rough model of a 
Siamese plough will be obtained. Occasionally, but by no 
means always, a triangular piece of iron is fitted on to the 


wooden foot. This, however, is never permanently fastened 
to the block. The plough cuts a shallow furrow about 
two inches deep and five or six inches wide. It is usually 
drawn by buffaloes, which are the chief beasts of burden in 
this country. The <'tame" buffalo, as it is called, seems 
very docile with its native owners, and little children are 
often seen driving them about, running behind them, be- 
labouring them with sticks, or sitting on their broad hard 
backs, guiding them in the desired direction by whacking 
them over the nose. They have, however, a strong dis- 
like to Europeans, and will attack a white man without 
any provocation whatever. The natives give as the reason 
for his dislike, that the " smell " of the white man is offen- 
sive to the beasts. They are yoked to the plough in a 
manner as simple as it is inexpensive. A slightly curved 
wooden yoke is laid across their powerful necks. On either 
side of the neck a straight piece of wood passes through 
a hole in the yoke, hangs downwards, and so keeps the 
heads of the animals in the right position. From the yoke 
to the shorter portion of the plough, there passes a ^ong 
heavy wooden beam. This is fastened into a socket in 
the plough, just below the handle. It is tied to the yoke 
with a thong of hide, or a long strip of rattan cane, and 
ends in a graceful curve a foot or two above the heads 
of the animals. The free end of the beam is oflen decorat- 
ed with flowers, feathers, or brightly coloured ribbons. 
Pieces of rope passed through holes in the nostrils are the 
native substitute for the Eufopean bridle, harness, and reins. 


Thus the whole weight of the plough, the beam, and the 
yoke rests upon the necks of the animals. With one hand 
on the plough, and the other loosely grasping the reins, 
the field labourer toils through the broiling heat of the 
day, guiding the great clumsy-looking animab by an 
occasional tug at the reins, or urging them to greater speed 
with long low groan-like exclamations. 

The harrow is square in shape, is made of bamboo, and 
bears a number of straight wooden teeth. It is drawn by 
buffaloes, yoked and harnessed as in the case of the plough. 

As rice only grows where there is an excess of moisture, 
an abundant supply of water must be produced either by 
natural or artificial means. There is scarcely any artificial 
irrigation in Siam, for the peasants depend upon the chance 
rise of the rivers to flood the fields after the heavy rains 
are over. These floods not only inundate the low-lying 
plains, and so save the peasant the trouble of watering 
his fields himself, but when they subside they leave behind 
a deposit of mud so rich and fertile that manuring is 
rendered unnecessary. And as these floods are of annual 
occurrence, any system of rotation of crops has never been 
considered. Occasionally some farmer deems it advisable 
to adopt some artificial method of inundating his fields, 
and various methods of doing this are in use. In none of 
them, however, are pumps ever used, though considering 
the number of canals that thread the country from end to 
end, one would think that the easiest and most natural 
way of getting the water from the canal into the fields 


would be by means of pumps connected to a series of 
troughs that would cany the water to any point where it 
was required. Instead of a pump, various arrangements of 
baskets and buckets are employed. The baskets, which 
are made of cane and pitched inside and out to prevent 
leakage, will hold about seven or eight gallons. They are 
so suspended by a system of ropes, that a couple of 
children can easily scoop up water from the canal and pour 
it on to the adjacent rice-patch. When the fields in the 
immediate neighbourhood of the water-supply have been 
deluged, the water is passed over into the fields further 
away by means of a large wooden scoop, which takes up 
a few gallons at a time. This process is repeated for each 
successive field, and eventually the whole of the farm 
receives the requisite amount of water. 

When buckets are used, the system of irrigation is 
called "watering with the foot." The buckets are small, 
and are linked together about twelve inches apart. They 
revolve on a rude wooden windlass, which is worked by two 
men, who place their feet on treadles fastened to the shaft 
round which the buckets revolve, at the same time grasp- 
ing a horizontal bar for support. They run from the canal 
or pool, up an inclined trough, fall over the shaft, and 
tilt their contents into the field, pass back again under the 
shaft, and so return to the canal again. 

Of the forty different kinds of rice known to agricultur- 
ists, about six varieties are grown in Siam. The natives 
divide these roughly into two classes, which they name 


















respectively "Garden rice," and "Field rice." The latter 
kind is inferior in quality, and is scattered broadcast in the 
fields, where it is left to grow without any further care or 
attention being bestowed upon its cultivation. '* Garden rice," 
on the other hand, is carefully sown and tended. The 
seeds are first sown as thickly as they can grow, in well- 
watered patches. They soon sprout, and the beautiful gi-een 
blades grow rapidly in the hot sunshine. When they are 
a few inches high, they are pulled up by the roots, and 
bound into small bundles. These bundles are taken to the 
fields by men, women, and children, to be there trans- 
planted in long straight rows. The fields have by this time 
been covered with water, and trampled into a thick black 
mud under the hoofs of the buffaloes. Everyone, to use a 
native expression, now "dives into the field." They push the 
roots of the young shoots deep down into the soft mud, 
with their nimble hands and feet, with amazing rapidity. 
A good worker will not take more than three days to plant 
an acre. Planting lasts from about June to October, and 
during that time the farm hands receive in wages from 
eight to twelve shillings a month. 

The way in which the rice is reaped when the tine for 
harvest has arrived, depends largely on the state of the 
fields. If the waters have subsided, it is reaped with the 
sickle, and bound into sheaves, which are first allowed to 
dry in the sun, and are then removed by buffalo carts or 
bullock waggons. But if the fields are still under Avater, 
this method is obviously impossible, and besides, there is 




always a sufficiently large number of leeches, land-crabs 
and water-snakes moving about in the slimy mud to make 
the labourer cautious as to where he treads. In this case 
the people go to the fields in their long narrow canoes. 
They cut off the ripe heads with a sickle, and drop them 
into small baskets placed in the bottom of the boat. Great 
carelessness is often shown by the laughing, gossiping 


reapers, who drop handful after handful of ripe grain into 
the water. 

When the threshing commences, the services of the ever 
useful buffalo are once more demanded. A threshing floor 
is first prepared. A piece of ground is cleared, and then 
covered with a plaster made of soil, cow-dung, and water. 
After a few days this pasty mixture sets into a hard, firm 


coating. A tall, straight bamboo is erected in the centre 
of the floor, and a few good heads of rice are fastened 
at the top for the birds to eat A roughly carved figure 
of a man, jokingly christened "the grandfather," is added 
by way of decoration. Two buffaloes are used, which are 
yoked side by side. The inner one is loosely fastened on 
the inside to the central pole, and on the outside to his 
fellow-worker, while both are guided by a half-naked man 
or boy, who runs round and round behind the animals, 
holding on to the tail of the outer one. The threshing 
takes place on moonlight nights, and rarely does the moon 
shine on a more interesting or curious scene. The buffaloes 
pace on in their monotonous round, regardless of their 
screaming driver or of his vigorous jerking of their hindmost 
appendages. In the heaps of straw tumble all the merry, 
laughing urchins of the neighbourhood. The air resounds 
with the sounds of music, fiddles and tom-toms, dulcimers 
and drums. Joke and song pass from mouth to mouth. 
Here glows the red end of a cigarette; there a shiny 
brown back glistens in the moonlight. The large meek 
eyes of the animals stare through the gloom. Cocoa-nut 
oil lanterns vie with the ruddy flames of the fitful bonfires 
in lending more light to the scene, but rarely do more than 
tinge their own dark smoke a tawny hue. Fire-flies light 
up the deep shadows under the long drooping leaves of 
the palms, or mirror their own pale light in the bits of 
shiny straw that flutter in the evening breeze. Through 
all these varied shades of semi-darkness come laughter and 



song, the cry of the driver, the creaking of the pole, the 
firm, steady footfall of the patient beasts, the chirping of 
crickets, the croaking of frogs, and a million other sounds 
that tell of life and motion in the late hours of a tropical 

The rice is winnowed by the wind as it is poured from 
one wide shallow basket to another, and as the chaff flies 


about in the sunlight its gilded hues mingle with the vivid 
green of the surrounding landscape, to form behind the well- 
proportioned forms of the girls and women, a background 
which is unique in its brilliant combinations of light and 
colour. The grain is stored in large baskets made of 
cane and plastered outside with mud. These stand on a 
raised platform, and are covered by a roof made of leaves. 
The eye of the farmer grows bright as he regards his 
well-filled rice-bins, for by their number and contents does 


he measure his wealth. The fanners live together in small 
villages for mutual protection ; but in spite of all their 
precautions, those who inhabit the more remote portions 
of the country suffer severely from the depredations of 
bands of dacoits. During the night, too, the herds of 
cattle often break out and wander over the fields, doing 
irreparable damage as they wander from one plantation to 
another, the absence of all hedges or fences rendering 
their wanderings merely a matter of choice to themselves. 

The rice-mills of Bangkok are constructed after European 
models, and contain modern machinery; but outside the 
capital, the primitive mill of earlier days still survives. 
This is simply a short, broad stump of a tree with a 
conical hollow inside, the apex of the cone being near 
the ground. A long lever carries at one end a heavy 
wooden hammer-head, which falls into the hollow of the 
stem. It is raised by placing the foot on the other end 
of the lever, and then jumping up so as to press upon the 
lever with the whole weight of the body. The women are 
generally employed in this work, and in any small vil- 
lage you can hear the steady thump, thump of the 
hammers from morning to night, and see the girls and 
young women jumping on and off the short end of the 
lever, with an almost painful regularity and precision. 

A great deal of the rice grown in some of the northern 

provinces is sent to Luang Prabang, the local supply there 

being insufficient for the wants of the inhabitants. It is sent 

down the River Mekong on huge rice-rafts made of bamboo. 

^ 14 


It takes a fairly large crew to manage one of these rafts, 
and as several members of the party are sure to have a 
wife or child with them, the whole structure somewhat 
resembles a floating village. The most usual measurements 
of these rafts are one hundred and twenty feet long and 
about thirty feet beam. They are very difficult to manage, 
but so skilful are the native boatmen, that by means of a 
number of oars rigged fore and aft, they generally succeed 
in taking their cumbersome craft through the numerous 
rapids and eddies, with only occasional or trifling loss of 
their valuable cargo. 

Two curious ceremonies take place each year in con- 
nection with the agricultural operations. One is held in 
connection Mrith the opening of the field season, while the 
other is an Oriental form of "harvest- thanksgiving." The 
first ceremony is known as "Raakna" and is generally 
held about the middle of May. Until the "Ploughing 
Festival" is over, no one is supposed to plough or sow. 
On a certain day foretold by the Brahmin astrologers of 
the court, the Minister for Agriculture, who is always a 
prince, or a nobleman of high rank, goes in procession to 
a piece of ground some distance from the city walls. He 
is for the time being the King's proxy, and on that day 
many shopkeepers, and holders of stalls in the markets, 
pay their taxes to him as the representative of their 
sovereign. Formerly his followers were in the habit of 
seizing the goods of any shopkeeper which were exposed 
for sale along the route of the procession, but this arbitrary 


manner of collecting dues has, like many other harmful 
customs, completely disappeared during the reign of the 
present enlightened monarch. 

On reaching the scene of the festival ceremonies, the 
Minister finds there a new plough with a pair of exception- 
ally fine buffaloes yoked to it. Both plough and buffaloes 
are gaily decorated with flowers and leaves. The Minister 
takes the plough, and for about an hour he guides it over 
the field, closely watched by the assembled spectators. They 
do not, however, concentrate their attention upon his skill 
as a ploughman, but on the length of the piece of silk which 
forms his lower garment. If, in the course of his amateur 
agricultural operations, the Minister should pull this garment 
above his knee, it is believed that excessive and therefore 
disastrous rains will occur during the wet season. On the 
other hand, should he allow it to fall to the ankle a great 
scarcity of rain is anticipated. A prosperous season is foretold 
when the folds of the garment reach midway between knee 
and ankle. 

When a certain portion of the field has been ploughed, 
several old women in the King's service, strew grain of 
different lands over the recently ploughed land. The animals 
are unyoked and led up to the scattered grain and allowed 
to feed upon it. Once more the crowd are on the alert, as 
they seek for yet other omens. That kind of grain of 
which the buffaloes most freely partake, will, it is expected, 
be scarce at the next harvest; the kind they disdain will 
be reaped in abundance. The ceremony over, the minister 


returns in procession, accompanied by soldiers and military 
bands ; while the brightly dressed, chattering crowds return 
to their homes to prepare for the ploughing and the sowing, 
hoping for abundant rain and sunshine, and looking for a 
fruitful harvest, that thereby they may escape the terrible 
and remorseless hand of famine. 

The harvest-festival ceremonies are of Brahminical origin 
and are known to the people under the name of " Lo Ching 
Cha". The first word "Lo" means "to pull"— "ching cha" 
is "a swing". The place where the "Swinging Festival" 
is held is inside the city walls. It is a small green lawn 
situated opposite to a very large temple, and on the edge 
of a very busy thoroughfare. For three hundred and sixty 
three days in each year, there is nothing, except the huge 
pillars of the swing, to draw one's attention to the spot. A 
few boys playing football or flying kites, a few old women 
squatting down for a little gossip, or a few Malay grooms 
with their masters' ponies are the usual everyday occupants 
of the spot. On the other two days of the year, when the 
harvest festival is held, every inch of available space is 
occupied. The native children, unable to see over the 
heads of the men and women when they are upon the 
ground, quickly mount the neighbouring walls, and perch 
themselves in the branches of the trees, or cling, like monkeys, 
to every lamp-post and telegraph pole within sight of the 
proceedings. The thoroughfares leading to the place are 
blocked with innumerable carriages and rickshaws. The 
crowd is an exceedingly good-tempered one, and brawling 


of any kind is very unusual. The distant sound of a military 
band heralds the approach of another of those processions 
so dear to the heart of the Siamese. The procession passes 
through the dense crowd without any trouble, for the people 
willingly fall back so as not to impede its progress. Strangely 
coloured banners bearing quaint devices, flutter above the 
heads of the crowd. A modern military band plays " March- 
ing through Georgia", while an ancient band in tattered vermi- 
lion garments with yellow trimmings, bangs curious drums, and 
pierces the air with the penetrating shrieks of long brass 
trumpets. The tom-tom and the gong join in the general 
uproar. The crowd sways to and fro, striving to catch a 
glimpse of the barefooted soldiers in their brilliant uniforms, 
or of the numerous articles borne in the procession to indi- 
cate the nature and meaning of the festivities. Decorated 
buffaloes dragging decorated carts, bundles of rice, offerings 
of fruit and flowers, are all evidences of the thankfulness 
of the people for the safe ingathering of their harvests. 

In the centre of the procession, carried in a chair of 
state on the shoulders of a number of strong well-built 
men, and shielded from the sun by a huge state umbrella, 
sits the Master of the Ceremonies resplendent in cloth of 
gold and jewelled ornaments. At one time the Minister 
for Agriculture officiated on these occasions, but now a 
different nobleman is selected each year, whose business 
it is to organise and superintend all the arrangements for 
the festival. All eyes turn towards the seated figure in 
his tall conical hat and jewelled robes. He is carried to 


a small brick platform, which is draped with the national 
ilag and covered with flowers. He takes his seat, with two 
Brahmin priests on his right hand and two on his left. 
He places his right foot on his left knee, the left foot 
resting upon the ground. After having once seated himself 
in this position he is not allowed to remove his foot off 
his knee until the whole cereniony is finished. As this 
lasts about two hours, the presiding nobleman must be 
fairly uncomfortable by the time it is over. The penalty for 
moving the foot was, formerly, the confiscation of the cul- 
prit's property and the loss of his rank, in addition to any 
immediate ill-usage the attendant priests might think fit to 
bestow upon him ; but this is now all done away with, and 
the only deterrent influence brought to bear upon the tem- 
porary sufferer is the opinion of the people, who would 
feel deeply hurt and disappointed should any detail of 
their well-beloved ceremony be omitted. 

The attention of the crowd is next directed to the per- 
formance of the swinging games. The swing itself is like 
any ordinary child's swing except for its enormous size. 
The side pillars are about ninety feet high, and the seat 
of the swing is about half-way between the ornamented 
cross-bar and the ground. A few feet in front of the seat, 
on the side towards the Palace, a long bamboo-stem is 
fixed in the ground, and from the top is suspended a 
small bag of silver coins. The men who take part in the 
games are usually Brahmins. They are dressed in white, 
and wear conical hats. They swing towards the bag of 
















money and endeavour to catch it with their teeth. There 
are generally three competitors; the prizes for the first 
being worth about fifteen shillings, while for the second 
and third they are worth about ten and five shillings re- 
spectively. When the winners have received their rewards 
they pass among^st the crowd, sprinkling the spectators 
with consecrated water contained in bullocks' horns. Soon 
afterwards the Minister returns to his home, the crowd 
disperses, and thus this very ancient ceremony is brought 
to a close. 



Recent years have witnessed great changes in the methods 
of governing and judging the people. In nothing is the 
distinction between Old and Young Siam so definitely 
marked. But it is the old order of things that will chiefly 
concern us in this chapter, for the new order, though indica- 
tive of great progress, has been carried out by Western 
minds in hnitation of Western methods, and it therefore 
presents little which is of intrinsic interest to the student of 
foreign customs. But as any account of the country's laws 
and legislation would be incomplete without some mention 
of modern reforms, a brief account of some of the most 
important of them is here given. 

The King is theoretically an absolute monarch with power 
to control the life and property of every one of his subjects. 
But he appointed a Cabinet to assist him in carrying on 
the government of his country, and it is very doubtful 
whether he would now care to exercise his despotic authority 
to the full, should he by so doing incur the combined opposi- 
tion of the Cabinet he has created. There are twelve ministers 
in this Cabinet, who hold portfolios and seats. They are 


1. The Minister for Foreign Affairs. 

2. The Minister for Finance, who is also Minister of 
Customs and controls the various monopolies, gslmbling 
and opium farms. 

3. The Minister for War, who controls both Army and 

4. The Minister of Justice. 

5. The Minister of the North, who has under his control 
the administrationof nearly all the provinces north of Bangkok. 

6. The Minister of the South and West, who also directs 
the civil and military corvie. 

7. The Minister of the Royal Household. 

8. The Minister of Public Works, including the rail- 
ways, posts and telegraphs, and all public buildings. 

9. The Minister of Local Government, with control of 
prisons, police, and police-courts in Bangkok. He combines 
the functions of a Lord Mayor and a Home Secretary. 

10. The Minister for Agriculture, who grants mining 
concessions, superintends surveys, and looks after the land 

11. The Minister of Public Instruction. Under him are 
placed the hospitals, the museums, and a number of ecclesi- 
astical establishments. 

12. Privy Seal. 

The Cabinet holds its business meetings at night. They 
begin about eight o'clock and sit on through the cool dark 
hours of the night and early morning. The king may or 
may not be present. 


Last year an additional legislative body was established, 
under the name of ** The Legislative Council ". The members 
of the Cabinet are all members of the Legislative Council, 
but many others have been added. They do not hold 
their meetings in secret, like the older body, and they also 
call in outsiders, both foreign and native, when they want 
professional advice on any matter. They have appointed a 
number of sub-committees, of each of which some European 
servant of the Government is a member. They are concerned 
with the reform of old laws and the devising of new ones. 
One article in the decree that appointed this Assembly is 
sufficient to show how the king has gradually but voluntarily 
resigned the position of a pure despot. Until the formation 
of this Council no law could pass into action, and no 
reform or new law could even be initiated without the 
express written sanction of the king. During recent years 
he has been at times seriously ill for many weeks together. 
Naturally everything came to a stand-still. 

Now the new body of councillors has been specially 
requested to introduce and discuss new laws and regula- 
tions, and it has been further empowered to put into 
operation any law that it may pass, without the author- 
ity of the king, provided he is not at the time sufficiently 
well in health to attend to business. He, however, reserves 
to himself the right to amend the law should he after- 
wards think fit. Those who know anything of the present 
king will recognise the wisdom of this arrangement, for 
he can always be depended upon not to destroy but to 


stimulate everything which makes for the happiness of his 

Each province has at its head a Royal Commissioner 
who has extensive powers, but who holds office at the 
pleasure of the king, though in the first instance his appoint- 
ment is generally for some definite period. The Commis- 
sioners are not simply responsible for the good government, 
or for the collection of the taxes in the district under their 
charge, but they are intended to form connecting links be- 
tween the central and the outlying portions of the kingdom. 
For la faraway provinces, powerful and enterprising chiefs 
occasionally find it convenient to forget the fact that they 
are not independent monarchs. The appointment of Royal 
Commissioners was very much resented by some of the 
chiefs, especially by those who had previously reigned 
with the title and dignity of sovereigns. Amongst these was 
the "King of Luang Prabang," who had for many years 
governed the province of Luang Prabang under the above 
title. It has been stated that this man is the only man in 
the country, except the king, who can boast a purely Siam- 
ese descent. Everyone else has some foreign blood in 
his veins. At any rate, this so-called king belonged to 
one of the oldest families in the land. When the new 
Commissioners were appointed, a very young man was sent 
to take over the government of this province. On nearing 
the scene of his new labours, he sent word to the old chief 
to tell him of his arrival, and to demand a formal and 
elaborate reception to be made for him, as a mark of respect 


to the sovereign whose orders he had come to execute. 
The old man went himself to meet the new arrival, indulg- 
ing in a good deal of grumbling by the way, and wondering 
why there was any necessity to make such a fuss. When 
he found to what extent he was to be superseded in the 
government of his ancient domain, his grief and anger knew 
no bounds, but as he was powerless to resent he had to 
content himself with grumbling and moaning. He rather 
pertinently asked why the young king had sent a young 
man to control an old chief who had so long done his 
duty faithfully and well. One day the Commissioner heard 
the deposed governor addressed by the people, with the title 
of " king." He at once forbade the repetition of the word, 
saying, "There is but one king in Siam." The old man 
smarted not a little under what he considered was a new 
insult, but he restrained any outward expression of his 
feelings. Not long after this occurrence the Commissioner 
found that the chief had in his possession a state umbrella 
with the number of tiers used by royalty. He ordered two 
of these to be at once removed, and his order was obeyed. 
The insulted chief got his revenge at last, when the French 
took the province of Luang Prabang. M. Pavie, the French 
Commissioner, and formerly French Minister in Bangkok, 
sent the Siamese representative about his business, and invited 
the old chief to an interview. When the chief arrived, M. 
Pavie asked him if there was anything he wanted either for 
himself or his people. The old man related his loss of 
dignity and title, and begged that he might be allowed to 


repair his umbrella, and call himself "king" once more. 
"Certainly," said M. Pavie, with diplomatic condescension, 
«• call yourself * king ' if you like, and as to the umbrella, 
add two tiers or twenty, just as you please." The remade 
king was delighted, and returned home exceedingly glad at 
heart at the complete restoration of his royal name and 
furniture. The majority of the Commissioners, as well as 
the chief members of the Cabinet and of the Legislative 
Council are relatives of the king. 

Siam possesses an excellent code of laws. They are, in 
the main, just and well suited to the people for whom 
they were intended. There are faulty laws amongst them, 
and there are a few that are barbarous or cruel, but 
these, be it said to the credit of the present government, 
are never enforced. The faults of Siam's legislative system 
do not lie in the laws themselves, but in the administration 
of them. Bribery has been the curse of every court through- 
out the country. Bribed judges and perjured witnesses 
have hindered the operations of laws that would have been 
powerful for good, and have converted what should have 
been halls of justice into houses of oppression. The venial 
judge could be publicly flogged, but when the other judges 
and the witnesses were all also venial, no righteous accuser 
could be found. The system has existed for so many years 
that the people have got accustomed to it, and look upon 
bribery as a necessary and natural part of any legal pro- 
ceedings. The prolongation of the different lawsuits meant 
more and more profit to the judge, and so adjournments 


were indulged in ad infinitum. In this way thousands of 
cases have accumulated; and up to a few months ago the 
condition of affairs was so bad that the most just of 
judges might have been forgiven for preferring to leave 
alone the legal dust and uncieanliness accumulated by his 
predecessors. One of the most beneficial results that has 
followed the appointment of the Legislative Council, has 
been an enquiry into the character and causes of the 
defective administration of justice. A party of Belgian 
lawyers, assisted by a few Siamese lawyers trained for 
their profession in foreign countries, set to work to over- 
haul the courts and cases. They cleared off the legal 
arrears at the rate of scores each week. They found men 
who had been lying in gaol for years, without trial, for 
some trivial offence. In many instances the plaintiff who 
had originally entered the case was dead, or could not be 
found. These unfortunate sufferers they released at once. 
They discovered numerous examples of cruel or excessive 
sentences, which they reduced or annulled. To prevent 
further accumulations they assisted the native judges in 
trying all new cases as they came up day by day, giving 
them in this way, many a valuable object lesson in the 
administration of justice, though not without occasional 
hindrances from the judges, and even from the litigants 
themselves. One day an old woman went to one of the 
new foreign judges, crouched at his feet, and sobbed out 
a bitter tale of cruel wrong. She was engaged in some 
trivial lawsuit with a relative, and she alleged that she 


could not get her rights because the judge was receiving 
bribes. "My cousin," said she, "sends the judge presents 
of flowers and fruit, and I know what is hidden in the 
basket." She dwelt on the enormity of the offence and 
the suffering she endured thereby, and the foreigner listened 
with great interest. At last he remarked, "Well, what do 
you want me to do for you?" The woman, her eyes bright 
with hope, answered him, "Next week the case is coming 
befpre you, and if you will only pronounce a verdict in 
my favour, I too will make you a present of fruit and 

The laws of the country do not admit of being catalogued 
or described in any brief manner, as they occupy seventy 
volumes of closely printed Siamese, a mass of legal liter- 
ature which it is obviously impossible to condense for the 
purposes of this chapter. 

There are two courts for the trial of criminal cases, and 
a number of minor courts for the trial of civil cases in 
Bangkok. There is also an International Court where the 
subjects of different nations attempt to settle their differ- 
ences with the natives. As far as Englishmen are concern- 
ed, this court is practically useless; for owing to the lacka- 
daisical manner in which the affairs of Englishmen are dealt 
with by the members of the British consulate, the native 
judges know full well that they can always give their own 
countrymen every possible benefit of the slightest doubt. 
A remark once made by a Siamese to an English resident 
is only too true — "What good are your Consuls and Minis- 



ters to youf If I bring a case against you in your court, 
I shall win it, and if you bring a case against me in my 
court, I am equally certain you will lose it." 

There are provincial courts for dealing with minor offences 
in the outlying districts, but the judges in these courts have 
* no power to sentence a man to death unless such power 
is directly given them by the king himself. 

The course of procedure in any court is simple but slow. 
The plaintiff presents his case in writing. This is neatly 
copied by the clerks, and then read to the complainant in 
order to see that no inaccuracy occurs. If he signifies 
that the document so read, is a faithful reproduction of 
the original, it is folded up and fastened with a bit of wax 
or soft mud, on which he impresses his private seal, that 
is, the mark of his thumb-nail. A synopsis of the plaint 
is sent to the defendant, who makes his answer in writing, 
which is similarly copied and sealed. A day for hearing 
the case is appointed, but the litigants are called together 
before the day of trial, with a view to settling the matter 
privately. If these efforts at conciliation prove unfruitful, 
the depositions are read before subordinate judges, who, 
after considering the case, make their award in writing. 
Their written judgment is forwarded to the chief judge 
and he pronounces the sentence. The chief judge has full 
powers, but an appeal to the king is allowable. This 
privilege is more or less a dead letter, as it would be 
practically impossible for a poor man to get his appeal 
brought before the notice of his sovereign. 


Very few of the courts have a legal aspect. The judge 
reclines at one end of the room, on a mat placed on the 
floor. Under his arm is a three-cornered pillow. He smokes, 
drinks tea, chews betel-nut, and spits during the whole course 
of the trial, and his example is followed by the policemen, 
witnesses, lawyers and spectators. 

A long and terrible oath is administered to each witness. 
It runs as follows: "I, — , who have been brought here 
as an evidence in this matter, do now in presence of the 
divine Buddha declare that I am wholly unprejudiced against 
either party, and uninfluenced in any way by the opinions 
or advice of others, and that no prospects of pecuniary 
advantages or of advancement to office have been held 
out to me. I also declare that I have not received any 
bribes on this occasion. If what I have now spoken be 
false, or if in my further averments I should colour or 
pervert the truth so as to lead the judgment of others 
astray, may the three holy existences before whom I now 
stand, together with the glorious Devattas of the twenty- 
two firmaments, punish me. 

"If I have not seen, yet shall say that I have seen — if 
I shall say that I know that which I do not know, then 
may I be thus punished. Should innumerable descents of 
the Deity happen for the salvation and regeneration of 
mankind, may my erring and migrating soul be found 
beyond the pale of their mercy. Wherever I go, may I 
be encompassed by dangers and not escape from them, 
whether arising from murderers, spirits of the ground, robbers. 


spirits of the forest, of the water, of the air, or from all 
the angels, or from the gods of the four elements and all 
other spirits. May blood flow out of every pore of my 
body, that my crime may be made manifest to the world. 
May all or any of these evils overtake me three days hence. 
Or may I never stir from the place on which I now stand; 
or may the * lash of the sky ' * cut me in twain, so that 
I may be exposed to the derision of the people ; or if I 
should be walking abroad, may I be torn in pieces by 
either of the four preternaturally endowed lions, or destroyed 
by poisonous herbs or venomous snakes. When in the 
waters of the river or ocean may alligators and large fishes 
devour me ; or may the winds or waves overwhelm me ; or 
may the dread of such evils keep me during my life a 
prisoner at home, estranged from every pleasure ; or may I 
be afflicted by the intolerable oppressions of my superiors ; 
or may cholera cause my death, after which may I be 
precipitated into hell, there to go through innumerable stages 
of torture; amongst which, may I be condemned to carry 
water over the flaming regions, in open wicker baskets, to 
assuage the heat felt by the judge of hell when he enters 
the infernal courts of justice, and thereafter may I fall into 
the lowest pit of hell. Or if these miseries should not ensue, 
may I after death migrate into the body of a slave, and 
suffer all the hardships and pain attending the worst state 
of such a being, during a period of years measured by the 
sands of the four seas ; or may I animate the body of an 
* Lightning. 


animal or beast during five hundred generations ; or endure 
in the body of a deaf, blind, dumb, homeless beggar, every 
species of loathsome disease during the same number of 
generations, and then may I be hurried to the bottomless 
pit, there to be crucified by the king of hell." * 

The old code contains a list of persons who are not to 
be allowed to give evidence. So many people must have 
been excluded from the witness-box by the old regulations, 
that one wonders how they ever could have obtained any 
evidence at all had they obeyed the regulations completely. 
For instance, none of the following persons could be called 
to give evidence:— Drunkards, opium-smokers, gamblers, 
notorious vagabonds, goldsmiths, braziers, blacksmiths, shoe- 
makers, executioners, beggars, potters, dancing women, 
women who had been married three times, adulterers, 
clerks, orphans, players, jugglers, acrobats, undutiful children, 
atheists, slaves, friends of either party, enemies of either 
party, quacks, liars, and sorcerers. Physical defects excluded 
unmarried or pregnant women, the blind, halt, deaf, people 
above seventy years old and children under seven, dying 
people, and persons suffering from any loathsome disease. 
Intellectual defects prohibited the giving of evidence by 
those who could not read, could not count up to ten, and 
who did not know the names of the eight cardinal sins. 
On the other hand, this curious old code directed that 
special attention should be given to the testimony of men 
of good learning and of known good character. 

• «Siam", Bowring. 


It was sometimes considered necessary to make a supposed 
criminal confess. To that end, provided he could not be 
persuaded by gentler means, the prisoner received ninety 
lashes on his bare back, with a rattan rod. Time was given 
for the cuts to heal, and then the experiment was repeated. 
A time for healing again intervened and then a third 
flogging settled the matter, for if the man did not confess 
under the third application of the rod, he was considered 
innocent. The fear of the punishment that awaited those 
who did not confess, must often have caused many innocent 
persons to declare themselves guilty. Flogging was not 
the only aid to confession. A modification of the thumb- 
screw in the form of a split bamboo, was held to possess 
a strong persuasive influence. 

One or two very ancient customs still linger. Thus both 
plaintiff* and defendant are expected to provide bail when 
bail is demanded. And in serious cases where bail is not 
given, the plaintiff* has to go to prison with the defendant 
until the case is tried. This regulation doubtless often 
prevents false accusations being made, but it has its severe 
side, as shown by the fact that a woman who had been 
plaintiff* in a case, was recently released from prison by 
the new judges, after lying in confinement for over three 
years. The defendant, moreover, had been allowed to go 
scot-free many months before. 

Again, the relatives of a man are held security for hts 
good behaviour, and the inhabitants of any neighbourhood 
are liable to flnes and taxes if murders or suicides take 


place amongst them. These laws if strictly enforced in a 
country where people rarely leave their own neighbourhood, 
would render the detection of criminals a fairly easy matter. 
They are sometimes enforced when it suits the authorities 
to carry them out. 

An incident that came under the personal knowledge of 
the writer will perhaps illustrate in a general way some of 
the merits and demerits of the native method of apprehend- 
ing offenders. During the Franco-Siamese trouble, the 
natives naturally felt rather unfriendly towards their enemies, 
and not being able to distinguish between the subjects 
of one foreign nation and another, they exhibited their 
displeasure towards all white men alike. An Englishman 
who was in the Siamese Government Service, was one 
afternoon taking a walk in the outskirts of the city, 
accompanied by two ladies. Suddenly he felt a hard blow 
on the ear, and at the same instant a brick went whizzing 
past with great velocity. He turned round to see from 
where the missile came, only to find a barefooted, half- 
naked native going down the road as fast as he could run. 
He mentioned the matter the next day to the Minister in 
charge of the department in which he was employed. His 
chief very kindly reported the matter to the Minister for 
Foreign Affairs, who promised that some attempt should 
be made to arrest the offender. A policeman was sent to 
the place where the offence occurred, to make enquiries. 
He promptly arrested the first loafer he saw, and accused 
him of the offence. The man denied the charge, but said 


he could give information as to the name and residence 
of the man who was wanted. He then took the policeman 
to the house where the culprit lived. The official went into 
the place and asked for the man. His relatives professed 
complete ignorance as to his whereabouts. The policeman 
then gave them a week in which to find him, and reminded 
them that if the man were not found by that time he should 
be compelled to arrest the whole family. Within a week 
they handed over the culprit He was taken before the 
judge and charged with assault. He confessed, and was 
sentenced to imprisonment for a definite time. All this time 
the complainant was not summoned to appear ; he was not 
asked to identify the man, or to prosecute in any way. 
In fact, he knew nothing at all about it until he received 
a letter from the officials telling him that his assailant was 
in jail, and that if he wanted to interview the prisoner he 
would be permitted to do so. 

Many minor offences are punished with floggring. The 
man*s hands and feet are loosely fastened to a bamboo 
framework, and he is then thrashed on the bare back, with 
a rattan rod. Deserters from the army are thus punished. 
But in all cases a timely bribe will lighten the weight of 
the descending rod, the guilty man meanwhile not forgetting 
to howl and groan his loudest, so that the official who 
superintends the execution of the punishment may not 
discover the fraud. The late king is reported to have 
been very fond of this method of punishment, and to have 
ordered frequent chastisement of his chief officials in his 


own presence whenever he had cause, or thought he had 
cause, to be seriously offended with them. 

The punishment for murder is death by decapitation. 
Those who are reprieved through the mercy of the king, 
lose their titles, rank and property, and are branded on 
the arm. They are then condemned to the degrading 
office of cutting grass for the king's elephants. They are 
not allowed to hire anyone to perform their duties for 
them, but are obliged to do the work set them until deatn 
puts an end to their tasks. 

The execution of the death penalty is an impressive if 
barbarous ceremony. Such occasions are very rare, and 
constitute about the only events that are not attended with 
merry-making. The laughing, joking, merry-hearted native 
forgets for once to chatter and be glad. The interior of 
a court, a palace, a gaol, or a temple exercises no re- 
straining influence upon the voluble tongues of the people. 
But in the presence of the executioners a deathly silence 
falls upon the whole of the spectators, which is all the 
more intense and real by reason of its rare occurrence. At 
the break of day, near a lonely temple on the banks of 
a lonely canal, some distance from the city walls, the 
prisoner is led to the spot where he must pay for life 
with life. His feet and wrists are firmly manacled, and 
the clink-clank, clink-clank of the chains in the still morning 
air is the only sound heard as the vermilion-robed execu- 
tioners bring their victim forth. Presently the sound of 
chanting arises, and the brethren of the yellow robe intone 


the prayers for the dead. The man's neck is fastened to 
a bundle of bamboos, but he realises very little of what is 
taking place, for the executioners, with a merciful consider- 
ation worthy of much imitation in other walks of life, 
have thrown their victim into a state of stupor by means 
of a powerful drug. Into his ears they have rammed plugs 
of soft clay or mud, so that in case the drug should fail, 
the wretched creature shall not hear their steps when 
they come behind him to deliver the fatal blow. The 
executioners next plead to Buddha for forgiveness, for 
they are about to break the well-observed law, "Thou 
shalt not kill." They plead the command of the king and 
the requirements of justice, and prostrate themselves on the 
ground. Their prayers over, a silent signal is pven, the 
red-robed figure comes silently and slowly along with a 
quaint dancing gait; he raises his keen-edged blade on 
high, and with one sweep of the weapon severs the head 
from the trunk. The head is set up on a pole as a warning 
to those present; the feet and hands of the victim are 
hacked off; the fetters collected, and the crowd disperses 
silently, with the ominous croaking of many birds of prey 
impressing the meaning of the lesson upon their mournful 



Death is essentially awe-inspiring and mysterious, and 
in the case of a people whose lives, from the cradle upwards, 
are lived in an atmosphere of superstition, it is only to 
be expected that the ceremonies for the dead should be 
duly and respectfully performed. 

When a person is at the point of death, those by the 
bed-side endeavour to fix the thoughts of the dying one 
upon the "Great Teacher," whose words are their hope 
and guide at such a time. Loudly and rapidly, at least 
eight or ten times a minute, the watchers exclaim, '*Pra 
Arahang, Pra Arahang," this being one of the many 
names of the last Buddha. With the mind dwelling upon 
the precepts of the ancient sage, the sick one passes from 
this world of men, and the body lies stiff in death. Still 
the cry goes forth, louder and more rapidly than before, 
"Pra Arahang, Pra Arahang," so that the departed soul 
may not forget the teacher as it takes its flight into another 
world. The cry ceases not until the spirit has passed so 
far away that all hope of it hearing the voices of earthly 
relatives must be abandoned. Then loud wailing, the 


natural world-wide expression of uncontrollable grief, is 
heard all over the house. Even the visitors, the domestics, 
the slaves and others who might not be supposed to be 
so deeply affected by the loss of the one who has passed 
away, join in the mournful chorus, as a fitting way of show- 
ing their respect for the dead. If the person is of high 
rank the body is bathed with great ceremony. The king 
himself comes to the bedside to pour water over the 
corpse. Other princes follow his example, after whom 
come the nobles present, according to their rank. The corpse 
is dressed in pantaloons and a tight-fitting jacket, wrapped 
in a winding-sheet and placed in a sitting posture in a 
copper urn. A tube is placed in the mouth, and a mixture 
of quicksilver and honey poured into the body. The 
copper urn, which has a gating at the bottom, is next 
placed inside a golden urn richly studded with precious 
stones. At the bottom of this urn there is a stop-cock 
through which the products of decomposition are drained 
away day by day, in the interval that elapses between 
the death and the cremation of the body. As the urn is 
placed on a high pedestal a loud blast is blown upon the 
trumpets, the ancient conch shell is sounded, the wailing 
of relatives and friends bursts out afresh, and the band 
plays sorrowfully a weird funeral dirge. This noisy 
demonstration is known as ''the invitation to the corpse 
to sit upon the platform." All the insignia of ofKce belong- 
ing to the deceased are arranged at the foot of the 
urn, together with those articles he has continually used 


Page 24S. 


in his daily life, such as his cigar case, his golden betel- 
nut box, his spittoon, his jewellery, and his writing materials. 
At dawn, at noon, and again at early evening, the women 
relatives and domestics gather round the base of the pedestal 
to indulge in loud and tearful moans. In the intervals 
between these demonstrations of sorrow, the priests occupy 
the room, chanting the prayers for the dead and other 
stanzas from their religious texts appropriate to the occasion. 
The remains are kept for a long time, sometimes for several 
years before they are burned. 

All people are not cremated. If a man has committed 
suicide, or died a sudden death, as by lightning, cholera, 
or small-pox, he is held to be deficient in "merit'* and 
not worth burning. Such people are buried. It may here 
be noticed how little wood is really required to burn a 
body. About two armfuls of fuel will reduce a corpse 
to ashes. 

Upon the death of a king, it is the duty of his successor 
to make preparations for the cremation. The royal burnings 
take place on an open piece of ground in front of the 
Royal Palace in Bangkok, called the "Pramane Ground." 
The word "Pramane" is the name of the structure erected 
for the ceremony. A square is marked out on the ground, 
with its sides about forty feet long. At the angles of the 
square are placed four huge pillars of teak about two 
hundred feet long. These pillars must be straight, of the 
finest timber to be found in the kingdom, and must never 
have been used in any previous ceremony. They lean 


towards each other at the top, forming a truncated pyramid, 
and support a pyramidal structure which ends in a tall 
tapering spire and is profusely decorated with gold-leaf 
and tinsel. A large fence of newly cut bamboo is erected 
to enclose the central erection— the pramane. In three sides 
of the fence, gates are placed midway. Inside the fence 
there are a number of temporary buildings, one for the 
priests, one for the king and royal family, and another 
for specially invited visitors. The king's pavilion is easily 
distinguishable from the rest by its wealth of crimson 
drapery and cloth of gold. The floor of the enclosure is 
covered with a carpet of split bamboos, which has been 
specially made for the occasion and may never again be 
used for a similar purpose. At many points in the fence, 
royal seven-tiered umbrellas of cloth of gold reflect the 
powerful sunlight with dazzling brilliancy. Outside the 
enclosure another set of buildings is provided for the use 
of the oflicials, while over the rest of the ground are 
scattered theatres, puppet-shows, shadow plays and other 
forms of amusement. Under the central pagoda is a royal 
throne richly draped, and an eight-sided pyramid which 
rests upon a firm platform. From the centre of the roof 
hangs a circular awning, from which long strips of crape, 
white silk, and cloth of gold are carried to the four corners 
of the pramane. The eight-sided pyramid is the resting- 
place of the urn, and has a special canopy of cloth of gold. 
Floral wreaths and other decorations, made with marvellous 
skill and taste, are displayed in every available spot, while 


bits of glass and porcelain adorn the pillars and reflect the 

light of the sun by day, and of the torches and lamps by 

night. After sunset a general illumination of the whole place 

occurs. It is produced by thousands of torches, oil lamps 

and Chinese lanterns. 

At dawn, on the first day of the celebration of the funeral 

rites, the corpse is taken in a car to the scene of the 

ceremonies. The first carriage in the sad procession is 

occupied by the high priest. As it moves slowly along, 

he reads from the Buddhist scriptures the passages on 

death, and fixes his thoughts upon the fleeting nature of 

this earthly life. The second carriage contains the favourite 

children of the deceased monarch, while the third is the 

funeral car. The high priest holds in his hands, pressed 

closely against the sacred book, one end of a long strip of 

silver ribbon. The ribbon is carried backwards, passes 

through the hands of the children, and is fastened at the 

other end to the golden urn which contains the remains. 

As the priest reads, holy influences pass from the sacred 

words through the ribbon to the living bodies of the 

children and the dead body of their royal father. Other 

carriages follow the funeral car, one of which contains sticks 

of fragrant wood, with gilded ends — the fuel for the burning. 

Another is filled with representations of fabulous animals made 

in bamboo and covered with tinsel. The head and tail of the 

funeral procession are formed by the white-robed Brahmins 

in their usual conical hats. The throbbing of the death-drums 

falls upon the ear with a dull regular boom, boom, boom. 



On arriving at the Pramane, the urn is placed upon the 
pagoda, there to remain for seven days. The silver ribbon 
is fastened in the middle to the urn, and at the ends to 
the east and west sides of the room, thus indicating the 
path traversed by the sun in his daily round, and sym- 
bolising the life of man in its passage from the cradle to 
the grave. The priests assemble in great numbers to recite 
stanzas bearing upon life and death, and upon the mysteries 
of Nirvana and the hereafter. When their recitations are 
finished, they sit for a little while, with bent heads, 
in silent meditation upon the things they have spoken. 
They retire for a time, but return a few hours later to 
repeat their solemn chants. 

The mourning colour is white, and every subject must 
wear it when the sovereign dies. Unfortunately black is 
being gradually substituted for white. It is a very hot and 
ugly colour to wear in a tropical land. Every subject must 
also shave completely the hair of his head, and keep his 
head in this condition of baldness as long as the Court 
may command. 

Thousands of priests are on such occasions fed, and 
presented with new robes, and books, and a crowd of mis- 
cellaneous articles, such as clocks, boxes of cigars, trays of 
betel-nut, and umbrellas. 

Here and there on the Pramane Ground are placed the 
" trees that gratify the desires of men." They have no 
likeness to any tree at all, but are hollow wicker baskets 
on the ends of long poles. Tied to the ** branches " are a 


number of fresh limes, each of which contains either a small 
silver coin or a lottery ticket They are supposed to repre- 
sent the four trees that will blossom at the four corners 
of the city in which the next Buddha will be born. They 
will then produce all kinds of delicious fruit in fabulous 
quantities. In the evening men go up the wicker *tree,' 
pluck off the limes and throw them to the crowd. The 
greatest excitement prevails, and the people shriek and 
shout, and tumble over each other in their endeavours to 
obtain one of the coveted souvenirs. 

A display of fireworks follows the distribution of limes. 
Birds, water-spouts, " bellowing elephants," and many other 
fantastic forms blaze, fizz, and explode. When the last spark 
has disappeared the first sound of orchestral music is heard, 
and free open-air theatres, puppet-shows, and shadow plays 
offer their several attractions for the amusement of the 

On the seventh day the urn of gold is taken from under 
the canopy, and the copper one removed from it. All the 
inflammable drapery, and all articles of any value are carried 
away to be beyond reach of flame. A pile of fragrant wood 
and spices is neatly arranged, and then the urn is placed 
thereon. A quick-burning fuse or train of gunpowder is 
laid from the funeral pyre to the king's pavilion. At the 
proper time, about sunset usually, he ignites the fuse with 
sacred fire from the royal temple. Everyone who is permitted, 
goes at once to the pramane, lights a candle, and lays it 
in the fire, thereby increasing the brilliancy and intensity 


of the fire. Great care has to be taken to prevent the whole 
structure and the surrounding buildings being consumed in 
a general conflagration. Many people are engaged in ex- 
tinguishing the fire at places where it threatens to exceed 
its proper limits. In about an hour the cremation of the 
body is complete, and the fire is everywhere carefully ex- 
tinguished. The charred bones are placed in the golden 
urn once more, the original pyramid rebuilt, and the drape- 
ries replaced as before. The ashes of the fire are collected, 
wrapped up in muslin, placed on a golden dish, taken in 
a procession of state barges some distance down the river, 
and there thrown into the waters. For three days after the 
burning the festivities are kept up, and general rejoicing 
prevails amongst the crowd. The charred remains are kept 
in a room in the palace, specially set aside for the reception 
of the royal remains. The timber used in the construction 
of the pramane or of any of the attendant buildings, can 
never be used again for funeral purposes. It is distributed 
to the priests to be used by them in the erection or repair- 
ing of their dwellings. 

Such then is the ceremony that attends the death of a 
king. Other members of the royal family and all princes 
and nobles of high rank are also cremated with great pomp 
and with a lavish expenditure of money. As the king's 
household is a very large one, and as a few deaths occur 
every year, it would involve a fearful waste of time and 
money if a separate funeral service were held for each of 
them in turn. One by one as deaths occur, the dead 


bodies are placed in the copper urn, and this s^ain in the 
golden one, until a fairly large number await their crema- 
tion. In 1895 a royal funeral ceremony was held that 
lasted for a week, several bodies being burnt every day. 
The illustration, **A Royal Funeral Procession", was made 
in connection with this particular ceremony. The boxes 



seen passing through one of the city gates were the coffins 
of the least honoured or distinguished of the dead. Such 
a cremation, though performed with great state, is not 
nearly so imposing as that connected with the death of 
a king. 

The poorer classes cannot afford the money to pay for 
fireworks, theatres, and processions, but they do all that 


they possibly can to show their respect for the dead, with 
becoming ritual. When a man is thought to be nearing 
his end, the priests are called to his bedside. They read 
to the dying man of his future births, of the blessed Nir- 
vana, and endeavour to drive all fear from his mind. When 
life is extinct they sprinkle the body with water, and join 
the relatives in the chorus *'Pra Arahang, Pra Arahang". 
The body is washed, and wrapped in a clean cloth, and 
money is placed in the mouth. It is then put into an urn, 
if the friends can afford to buy one ; but if not, it rests 
simply in the coffin. The coffin is an oblong wooden box, 
covered outside with wall-paper and tinsel, and has no lid. 
Food is placed inside, and very often the body lies face 
downwards so that the spirit shall not find its way back 
again. The coffin is removed from the house through a 
hole in the wall, and not through the door, for if the 
spirit of the deceased should be lingering near, it might 
refuse to pass through the doorway into the outer world, 
and would then remain to haunt the house and disturb its 
inhabitants. The coflfin is carried round and round the 
house three or four times, so as to baffle the spirit that it 
may not be able to return to its former home. For it must 
be remembered that these people believe that it takes the 
soul seven days to reach its final destination, and there is 
always the possibility of its being recalled from its onward 
flight by earthly attractions, or by non-observance of the 
ceremonies that should be performed. 

The bearers next proceed to one of the temples which 


possesses a public "Pramane" or crematorium. After the 
burning has taken place the bones, or charred objects that 
look like bones, are collected from the ashes, to be reveren- 
tially preserved by the relatives. As they have no gold 
urns in which to store these relics, they keep them in 
common thick glass tumblers of foreign manufacture, over 
which they place a pagoda-like covering made of red 
lacquer and gilded by some native artisan. On very parti- 
cular occasions these remains are brought out and distributed 
about the rooms, perhaps as a reminder to the pleasure- 
seekers that death is ever with them. 

Those who have died of cholera or by lightning, and 
who have consequently been buried, are dug up a few months 
later, and what Is left of them committed to the flames. 

Paupers and criminals are disposed of in a barbarous 
and revolting manner. At one of the city temples a flock of 
vultures, numbering over a hundred, is kept. The vultures 
are repulsive, dirty-looking birds who sit stolidly hour by 
hour upon the roof or walls of the temple, apparently 
without life or motion except when a body is brought for 
their repast. Then they become keenly excited at the 
prospect of the coming feast, for which, however, they must 
first do battle with the crowd of pariahs that also haunt 
the vicinity of the same temple. They flock down with 
noisy croaking and great flapping of wings, but are beaten 
off" by the attendants, who first prepare the body for the 
feast by cutting it open in different places with large sharp 
knives. They cast a few pieces of flesh to the dogs and 


then retire. In a second the body is hidden by the birds, 
who settle upon it from head to foot. Nothing is to be 
seen but a compact mass of quivering feathers. The vul- 
tures gorge themselves with the flesh, never ceasing as 
long as anything remains to be consumed, unless it be to 
make a vicious grab at the head of some venturesome 
pariah who dares to interfere with their enjoyment of the 
feast. It is a sickening spectacle, and its only merit is 
that it is safer from a sanitary point of view to allow the 
flesh to be eaten in this way than to bury it beneath the 
damp soil near some human dwelling. 

The meal over, the feathered cannibals return to their 
perches upon roof and wall. The relatives gather up the 
clean white bones, put them loosely in a wooden cofHn, 
light wax tapers, and bearing the cofl^n with them, march 
three times round the funeral pyre. They then light the 
fire, place the coffin on the burning fuel, and scatter sweetly 
smelling incense in the leaping flames. 

There are two spirits who watch over and take charge 
of all burning-places. They are familiarly spoken of as 
the ''Grandfather cocoa-nut shell," and the "Grandmother 
cocoa-nut shell." 

To neglect the cremation ceremony would be as fatal 
to the happiness of the departed soul in its future exist- 
ence, as to neglect the shaving of the top-knot would be 
to the success of a child in this. The soul of the man 
whose body has not been consumed with fire passes into 
everlasting and fearful servitude. It becomes the bond- 


slave of a horrid master whose distinguishing personal 
characteristics are a dog's head on a human body and a 
ferocious temper. He sits for all time with his feet in the 
fires of hell, enjoying the infernal heat, but as his enjoy- 
ment would cease were his extremities to be consumed, he 
requires a body of servants to cool them. The souls of 
the uncremated are his slaves, and it is their duty to carry 
through the long years of eternity, water in open wicker 
baskets. Their way to the wells lies across a long and 
perilous bridge, but over it they must pass day by day 
without end as they perform their thankless task. When 
the body is burned the soul is liberated from this terrible 
bondage. There have been times when some frightful 
epidemic has ravaged the city, and when the attendants 
in fear and trembling have left the sick to die alone. Then 
the soldiers have been sent to gather up the dead and 
cast them into the public graves. When the scourge has 
spent itself and the minds of the living have become calm 
again, the relatives of those who have not been burned 
begin to reflect upon the awful fate that has overtaken the 
departed souls. Were they to go to the public grave and 
dig up a body and burn it, it might not be that of him 
they seek, and their efforts would be of no avail. But 
they free the fettered soul in another manner. They believe 
that the horrid monster of the nether regions knows all 
the names both of the living and the dead, so that if they 
endeavour to perform any act of propitiation he will know 
by whom and for whom the deed is done. They obtain 


the release of the soul by promising to call themselves in 
this life the relatives of the demon. It is merely a nominal 
relationship, but it pleases the fiend with the burning feet, 
and in return for the homage thus paid to his power he 
allows the captured soul to go its way. 

The worldly relations of the infernal spirit acknowledge 
their relationship by getting from the priests several red 
and yellow strings and binding them upon their necks, 
wrists and ankles. They also make a little cart, and model 
two clay oxen which they harness to the tiny shafts. In 
this they put clay images, one for each member of the 
family. Round the chief joints of these toy images, red 
and yellow strings are fastened by their owners. Offerings 
of flowers and fruit are put in the cart and then it is taken 
to the rice-fields and deposited in some convenient spot. 
The cart and its contents are soon destroyed by the birds, 
the wind, and the little field-mice, but they are liever 



"Lord Buddha sat the scorching summer through. 
The driving rains, the chilly dawns and eves; 
Wearing for all men's sakes the yellow robe, 
Eating in beggar's guise the scanty meal 
Chance gathered from the charitable." 

''Light of Asia;' Book V.-Arnold. 

Among the crowd of brightly dressed people who throng 
the streets and alleys, the canals and rivers of Eastern 
Venice, there are none who so soon command the attention 
of the new arrival, or who appeal more strongly to the 
eye of the oldest inhabitant of the city, than the yellow- 
robed priests of the Buddhist faith. In the capital of Siam 
there are over ten thousand of them, while in the whole 
kingdom there are more than one hundred thousand. No 
ancient order of Grey or White Friars ever exhibited their 
individuality either with such frequency, persistency, or 
picturesqueness as these representatives of a far more 
ancient if less noble worship. It is scarcely necessary in 
these days when Oriental creeds and faiths have been so 
fully and widely discussed, to point out that the primal 
elements of that philosophy which announced the necessity 


of the Buddhist priesthood are entirely diflferent to those 
which caused the creation of similar institutions in the West. 
The monk of the Western orders claims to be an inter- 
cessor between God and man. The Buddhists have no God, 
and therefore they do not make intercession for their brethren. 
The Western monk is a teacher and a preacher, the Buddhist 
priest may be, but is by no means necessarily so. The 
order rests upon a basis something like this: — The evil in 
the world is the result of past evil and will be productive 
of future evil. The only way to eradicate the general 
wickedness of the world is by casting it separately out of 
each individual in the world. This can only be accom- 
plished by the individual himself, and as long as he remains 
in contact with the world he is under constant temptation 
to indulge in its pleasures, to gratify his passions, and to 
add in a thousand ways to the sum of human misery. By 
retirement he no longer craves for fine food and raiment, but 
has every opportunity for long and careful meditation upon 
his own evil doings and desires, and upon the way to get rid 
of them. The monastic institution finds its parallel in the life of 
a layman, when such a one, with a large amount of work 
to be performed, shuts himself up in his own room and 
denies himself friends and rest that his labours may be 
properly accomplished. 

There is no real division between priest and layman; 
either may become the other at will. In Siam the monastic 
vow is not binding for life, but is cancelled by the superior 
of the monastery whenever a request to that effect is made. 


Every man in Siam enters the priesthood for at least three 
months of his life, during which time he is supported by 
the voluntary offerings of the people. The original purity 
and simplicity of the mendicant order has long been lost. 
The Society has often been endowed by kings and chiefs 
with gold and silver; idleness and worthlessness are too 
often the characteristics of the temporary priests. Still, 
there are a few who desire to live the noble life of their 
Founder and to follow faithfully in his paths of wisdom and 
virtue. For years they have been the schoolmasters and 
the doctors, and the copiers and makers of books. They 
are known in Siamese as '' Pra/' a word which means both 
"sacred" and "great." 

Each monk has eight requisite and lawful possessions; 
namely, three robes of yellow cloth which are all worn 
at the same time ; a bowl for the collection of the daily 
food ; a razor with which to shave the head and eyebrows ; 
a case of needles for the repairing of clothes ; a girdle ; 
and a filtering cloth. But the Siamese monks often have 
many possessions besides these. There is a rule that all 
other property except the above shall be given up to the 
common use of the monastery, but the rule is not obeyed. 
The three patched yellow robes are often represented by 
seven or more; and in the wealthier monasteries they are 
not of common cloth, but of rich and beautiful silk. The 
term "yellow" as applied to the priest's vestments is apt 
to convey a wrong impression to the minds of those not 
acquainted with Buddhist countries. In these degenerate 


times the monks desire that ornament in dress which their 
religion forbids, and they render themselves very artistic 
in appearance by a combination of colours not strictly yel- 
low, but ranging from a rich chocolate through shades of 
saffron, gold and orange to the palest tints of the orthodox 
colour. The following note from Alabaster's " Wheel of the 
Law** is an interesting comment upon the priestly robes: 

"I cannot state with any certainty the reason yellow 
robes were adopted by the Buddhists. There is a story 
that thieves wore yellow dresses, and that the poor ascetics, 
in the depth of their humility, imitated the thieves. It is 
far more probable that the people of the lowest caste, or 
outcasts, were compelled to wear yellow, and that the 
Buddhists, voluntarily making themselves outcasts, proudly 
adopted the colour which marked their act. We find 
them boasting of the yellow robe as the flag of victory of 
the saints. In the early days of Buddhism the monks wore 
whatever they could get. Some picked up and patched 
together the rags strewn about the cemeteries, whilst others 
are mentioned as magnificently attired in glittering royal 
vestments, and in the precious dresses procured by kings 
for the ladies of the harems, which the ladies piously 
gave away." 

Each priest also possesses a large fan. It is intended to 
assist him in keeping his eyes from the things of the world, 
and so to keep his thoughts from straying as he walks 
along the streets. A priest is forbidden to look more than a 
plough's length in front of him, and must keep his eyes 



fixed upon the ground; but the Siamese monk who obeys 
this rule must be diligently sought for in out of the way 
corners. The fan is generally carried by a boy attendant, 
who holds it so as to screen the priest's head from the 


sun, while his eyes roam at will, seeking for novelty and 

All those who wear the yellow robe are not men. Many 
children can daily be seen with shaven heads and eyebrows, 
dressed in the priestly garments. These are novices or 
**nanes," not fully ordained monks. They are not admitted 


before they are eight years old, and, unless^ their parents 
intend them to remain in the monasteries for life, they 
wait until the top-knot has been shaved off before entering 
into the service of the temple, so that their average age is 
about thirteen. After a time they leave the temple, return 
to the world, and get married. But about the age of 
twenty or twenty-one they must re-enter the priesthood, 
for in early manhood every male, including the king him- 
self, must seek full ordination. The "nane" during his no- 
viciate has only about ten rules to observe^ whereas the 
fully ordained priest has to obey over two hundred. 

The ceremony of ordination if respectfully and devoutly 
performed would be a very impressive one, but as at 
present carried out, the only persons in the temple who are 
at all reverent are the priests themselves. The behaviour 
of the congregation is marked by indiflference and often by 
extreme levity. When an applicant desires admission to 
the priesthood he signifies his request sometime before- 
hand to the president of the chapter, who then appoints 
a day for him to be formally received. The applicant 
arrives at the temple with a host of relatives and friends 
dressed as for a holiday. He is clothed in white, and over 
his ordinary garments he wears a mantle of gauze de- 
corated with gold and silver spangles. A procession is formed, 
and to the sound of a band that plays in the open air, he 
and his male friends march three times round the outside 
of the temple. He next enters the building and sits down 
on the floor in a place reserved for him. The women of 


the party sit on one side of the temple and the men on 
the other. They all chew betel-nut, and the men smoke, 
while all refresh their thirst from the numerous tea-pots 
that circulate round and round the congregation. At the 
far end of the building the priests are arranged in two or 
more rows, facing each other, with the president at their head. 

One of the friends of the candidate who has already 
been ordained, leads him to the superior, saying, ^* I present 
this person who wishes to become a priest." The applicant 
prostrates himself before the president three times, with his 
hands pressed against his forehead, palm to palm, and says, 
"Venerable president, I own you as my ordainer." The 
president fastens the bundle of robes round his neck, and 
he goes to the entrance of the temple, where two friends 
who are members of the chapter, fasten the begging bowl 
round his neck. The three men then return to the altar 
and bow. The candidate retires a little way, and kneels in 
reverential attitude while he answers several questions. A 
private examination has previously taken place. The president 
now reminds him that he is expected to give truthful replies 
to the questions put to him, and then puts him publicly 
through the following catechism. 

**Are you free from consumption^ fits, leprosy^ or any 
contagious disease?" 

"I am free." 

"Have you ever been bewitched or in the power of the 

" Never." 



" Are you in the full possession of all your mental faculties? ** 

"I am/' 

"Are you of the male sex?" 

"I am.'' 

"Are you in debt?" 

"I am not.*' (Many people endeavour to enter the 
priesthood in order to avoid payment of their debts.) 

"Are you a slave or a fugitive?" 

"I am not." (Those drawn for conscription often seek 
admission, as the forced military service is very unpopular.) 

" Do your parents give their consent to the step you are 
now about to take?" 

"They consent." 

"Are you over twenty years of age?" 

"I am." 

"Have you the requisite utensils and garments?" 

"I have." 

"Then come forward." 

The candidate goes forward on hands and knees, and 
with palm-joined hands salutes the president three times, 
saying, "O father benefactor, I pray to be admitted to the 
sacred dignity of the priesthood. Take pity on me and 
raise me from the lowly condition of the laity to the per- 
fect condition of the priesthood." 

The presiding priest next asks the monks of the chapter 
whether any of them know any just or lawful reason why 
the candidate should not have his request granted. If none 
of them state any objection, the president - signifies his 


willingness to admit the candidate to full ordination. The 
name, age, and address of the applicant are now written 
down in the records of the monastery, after which he goes 
to one side of the temple to be robed. He takes off the 
clothes he has been wearing and puts on his new garments 
in full view of the whole congregation. This is not at all 
an easy matter, and he is always assisted by some friend 
who has previously gone through the same ordeal. If the 
friend gets the robes entangled, as he frequently does, the 
congregation laughs immoderately at the uncomfortable 
dilemma in which the candidate is placed. The difficulty 
is solved by some kindly-disposed priest, who leaves his 
place and comes to assist in the robing. With fan in hand 
and the alms-bowl slung over the shoulder, the wearer of the 
yellow robe kneels once more before the superior, saying: — 

"I go for refuge to the Buddha.** 

"I go for refuge to the Law." 

"I go for refuge to the Order.'* 

He follows this by taking ten vows: — 

1 "I take the vow not to destroy life.*' 

2 "I take the vow not to steal." 

3 "I take the vow to abstain from impurity." 

4 "I take the vow not to lie." 

5 "I take the vow to abstain from intoxicating drinks, 

which hinder progress and virtue.*' 

6 "I take the vow not to eat at forbidden times." 

7 ''I take the vow to abstain from dancing, singing, 

music, and stage-plays.** 


8 "I take the vow not to use garlands, scents, unguents, 

or ornaments.** 

9 "I take the vow not to use a broad or high bed." 
10 "I take the vow not to receive gold or silver." 
Then the president says to him, *' You are now received 

into the brotherhood. I will therefore instruct you what 
duties you are to perform and what sins you are to avoid. 
You will daily collect alms and will never put off your 
yellow robes. You must dwell continually in a monastery 
and never with the laity, and you must forsake all carnal 
pleasures,'* and so on. 

The ceremony concludes with the paying of homage to 
the newly made priest He sits on the floor, and then all 
present who are acquainted with him come, one by one, 
and prostrate themselves to the ground before him, at the 
same time giving him some present. If he has many 
friends, the floor of the temple round him is soon covered 
with about as motley an assortment of articles as it is 
possible to gather. There are robes, incense sticks, books, 
pens and ink, pencils, cigars, tobacco, betel-nut, clocks, 
vases of wax flowers, umbrellas, fans, flowers, fruit and 
cakes. When all the presents have been given and the 
congregation have paid their respects to the new monk, 
they go to their homes, and he at once takes up his 
residence in the cell allotted him. As long as he remains 
at the monastery he must obey orders and regard the 
superior as a second father. 

The monks are not allowed to take food after noon. 


They may driak tea, chew betel-nut, or smoke tobacco, 
but they must not partake of solid foo of any description. 
This rule is certainly far more rigidly observed than most 
of those that af e laid down to regulate the conduct of the 
order. One of the commonest sights in any part of Siam 
is the procession of priests, soon after sunrise, seeking their 
daily bread. They carry a bowl, basin or bag, and go 
straight on from house to house, each in the district appoint- 
ed him. They stand outside the houses, but make no request 
for alms. If anything is given to them they bless the giver; 
if they receive nothing they pass silently on their way. 
Having collected their food, they return to the monastery 
to eat, and to meditate meanwhile upon the perishableness 
of the body. On such occasions as weddings, hair-cuttings, 
and funerals, wealthy laymen entertain the priests at their 
own houses, and send them away afterwards with further 
gifts of food. 

Buddha's early life as a mendicant was passed in the 
forest, and he held that the solitude and quiet of such a 
place was conducive to that long process of self-examina- 
tion and renunciation which constitutes the distinguishing 
feature of the order. But as he afterwards found that he 
could be more useful to men by living amongst them, he 
permitted his disciples to' live in companies in difierent 
places. The charity of the pious soon provided them with 
temples and monasteries, some of which were built even in 
his own time. 

During the whole of the dry weather the monks travel 


from place to place, but in the rainy season, which is the 
Buddhist Lent, they settle down in some particular monas- 
tery* They are not allowed to sleep outside the temple they 
have chosen for their habitation during this period of retire- 
ment, except for some very important reason, and then 
only with the direct sanction of the superior. As at this 
time the jungle is flooded, and malaria common, there is 
much wisdom in the rule that forbids travelling about until 
the dry weather comes again. The priests, during Lent, 
preach to the people, who come in large numbers to listen, 
and to bring offerings. It is a very busy religious season 
as far as outward appearances are concerned, but the 
apparent indifference of the majority of the worshippers 
raises a doubt as to whether these observances possess any 
moral influence upon their lives. 

The catalogue of the sins which the priests may not 
commit is a lengthy one and is religiously neglected. For 
instance, it is a sin to inhale flowers, to sit or sleep more 
than twelve inches above the ground, to break up the soil, 
to listen to music, to sing, to dance, to use perfumes, to 
sit or sleep in a higher position than the superior, to use 
gold or silver, to hold conversation on any but religious 
topics, to take gifts from or give gifts to a woman, to 
borrow, to ask for alms, to possess warlike weapons, to eat 
too much, to sleep too long, to take part in any sports or 
games, to judge one's neighbours, to swing the arms when 
walking, to bake bricks, to burn wood, to wink, to stretch 
out the legs when sitting, to look contemptuously at any 


one or anything, to buy, to sell, to slobber or make a 
noise when eating, to have any hair anywhere about the 
head or face, to keep the leavings of meals, to have many 
robes, to meddle with royal affairs except in so far as they 
concern religion, to cook rice, to ride on an elephant, to 
put flowers in the ears, to wear shoes, to love one man 
more than another, to. eat seeds, to sleep after meals, to 
make remarks about the alms given to them, to wear any 
colour but yellow, to pander to popular taste when preach- 
ing sermons, to wash in the dark, to destroy either animal 
or vegetable life, and to whistle. 

There are Ave sins that will certainly lead to everlasting 
punishment, whether committed by a priest or layman, viz., 
to murder one's father, to murder one's mother, to murder 
a priest' to treat the words or temples of Buddha with 
contempt, expressed as " to wound Buddha's foot so as to 
make it bleed," and to persuade priests to act falsely. 

Members are expelled from the order on commission of 
the following sins: — Sexual intercourse, theft, and murder. 
After such expulsions they can never be re-admitted. 
Confessions of sin are made twice a month, at full and 
new moon, when the chapter meets to listen to the read- 
ing of the rules of the order. There is no inquisition; 
confession is purely voluntary. Slight punishments, such 
as sweeping the courtyard, or sprinkling dust round the 
holy Bo-tree follow the acknowledgment of slight breaches 
of duty. Serious offences are tried in the ecclesiastical 
courts, for the priestly body is not amenable to the ordi- 



nary laws of the land. In these courts, presided over by 
the chief priest, no oath is taken. An ordinary affirmation 
or negative answer to any question is given in silence by 
the raising and lowering of a fan. If the defendant is 
found guilty he is unfrocked, publicly flogged, and then 
expelled from the order. 


The priest must rise before daylight, wash himself, sweep 
the room in which he lives, sweep round the Bo-tree, fetch 
the drinking water for the day, filter it to prevent killing 
any creatures it may contain when drinking it. These 
practical offices concluded, he is supposed to retire to a 
solitary place and there fix his mind in pious meditation 


Qpon the rules that r^^ulate his daily life. He rises to place 
offerings of flowers before the sacred image, the sacred 
dome-shaped shrine or the Bo-tree, thinking the whole time 
of the great contrast between his own weaknesses and 
Buddha's virtues. The next portion of the daily routine 
is strictly and regularly followed. He takes the begging- 
bowl, follows his superior, collects his food, returns, eats 
his meal, asks a blessing for the donor, performs little 
duties for his superior, and washes the alms-bowls. For 
the next hour he should again meditate upon the kindness 
of Buddha, and then study the sacred books. At sunset 
he sweeps the holy place, lights the lamps, and listens to 
the teaching of the superior. As the novices do all the 
manual work, the superior is expected to devote himself 
more fully to study and meditation. Many of the chief 
priests of the different temples are profound Sanscrit and 
Pali scholars. The minute routine set forth in the ecclesi- 
astical books is rarely followed in Siam. Priests walk about 
after sunset, and return late to the temples, their attend- 
ants lighting the way with torches. The time they give 
to meditation and worship is far short of that prescribed 
in the rules, and they are always ready to turn out for 
a chat with any visitor to their temple. 

Meditation is the Buddhist substitute for prayen There 
are five distinct classes of meditation. * 

I. — Meditation on love. The priest must think of the 
future happiness which awaits him when he has rid him- 

* See (<Baddhism", Rhys Davids. 


self of iall evil desires. This leads him to desire the same 
happiness for all his friends,' and finally for his foes. He 
meditates upon the good actions of his enemies, forgets 
their evil deeds, and endeavours to arouse in himself a 
wide-spreading, all-embracing, overshadowing love for all 
the world, which shall enable him to look with tenderness 
and affection upon all with whom he comes into contact. 

2.— Meditation on Pity. He concentrates his thoughts 
upon the miseries and sorrows of the world, and awakens 
the sentiment of pity in his own breast for all the distressed 
ones among his fellow-men. 

3. — Meditation on Joy. He is to change the attitude of 
his mind to one of contemplation of the joys of all men, 
and therein to find cause for rejoicing himself. 

4. — Meditation on Impurity. He must try to realise the 
evils of sickness, death, and corruption, to become horrified 
at the endless misery entailed by the continual recurrence 
of birth and death, and to desire its final extinction. 

5. — Meditation on Serenity. The priest contemplates the 
worldly opinions of men as to the badness and goodness 
of things; the desire for wealth and power; the hatred of 
injustice and oppression; he contrasts youth and disease, 
love and treachery, honour and disgrace, and endeavours 
so to rise above them all, that without haughtiness or pride 
he may be indifferent to all the evils and joys which accom- 
pany them, and free from all desires to partake of the same. 

This is not the place to discuss the philosophy of Buddha, 
as we are here concerned only with the mendicant order 


in Siam. But in order to gain a more complete idea of 
the duties and character of the monastic body as contem- 
plated by their founder, the following facts taken from 
Professor Rhys Davids- s work on ''Buddhism " are here given. 

Buddha before his death told his disciples that they were 
to propagate his Laws, viz., (i) The four earnest medita- 
tions. (2) The four great Efforts. (3) The four roads to 
Iddhi. (4) The five moral Powers. (5) The seven kinds of 
Wisdom; and (6) The Noble Eightfold Path. 

The four earnest Meditations are: (i) On the impurity 
of the body; (2) on the evils which arise from sensation; 
(3) on the impermanence of ideas; (4) on the conditions of 

The four great Efforts are — the exertion (i) to prevent 
bad qualities from arising; (2) to put away bad qualities 
which have arisen ; (3) to produce goodness not previously 
existing; (4) to increase goodness where it does exist. 

The four roads to Iddhi are the four bases of Saintship 
by which it is obtained. They are: (i) the will to acquire 
it ; (2) the necessary exertion ; (3) the necessary preparation 
of the heart ; (4) investigation. 

The five moral Powers are — Faith, Energy, Recollection; 
Contemplation, Intuition. 

The seven kinds of Wisdom are — Energy, Recollection, 
Contemplation, Investigation of Scripture, Joy, Repose and 

The noble Eightfold Path which leads to Nirvana com- 
prises: (I) Right belief; (2) Right aims; (3) Right words; 


(4) Right behaviour (5) Right mode of livelihood ; (6) Right 
exertion; (7) Right mindfulness; (8) Right meditation and 

All these different Powers, Laws, etc., are ag^ain subdivided 
and re-subdivided; but the above lines will be sufficient to 
outline the moral philosophy of that system which not only 
the priests should bear out in their lives, but to which every 
true believer in Buddhism is expected to conform. Practi- 
cally, however, these counsels are so many obselete laws, 
long since dead and forgotten. Outside the permanent 
priests and a few students, the vast majority of the people 
know nothing whatever about the system, and if some of 
the learned writers upon Buddhism in Europe were to 
preach their Buddhist sermons to the subjects of the only 
independent Buddhist king remaining, the people would 
stare in wonder at their new teachers and ask one another 
what strange doctrines were these that were being preached 
unto them. 

Buddha's own sermons as to the duties of the priesthood 
are worth a moment's notice, though the priests as a rule 
have never heard them, or heard them with indifferent ears. 
The following passages are quoted from the book mentioned 
above, and are translations of passages in those sermons 
whose authenticity is established. 

"He who, himself not stainless, 

Would wrap the yellow-stained robe around him, 

He, devoid of self-control and honesty 

Is unworthy of the yellow robe." 


"But he who, cleansed from stains, 
Is well grounded in the Precepts, 
And full of honesty and self-restraint 
'Tis he who's worthy of the yellow robe.** 

"The restrained in hand, restrained in foot. 
Restrained in speech, the best of self-controlled; 
He whose delight is inward, who is tranquil 
And happy when alone— him they call mendicant'* 

"The mendicant who controls his tongue, speaking 
Wisely, and is not puffed up, 

Who throws light on worldly and on Heavenly things, 
His word is sweet." 

"Let his livelihood be kindliness, 
His conduct righteousness. 
Then, in the fulness of gladness, 
He will make an end of grief." 

"As the Vassika plant casts down its withered blossoms 
So cast out utterly, O mendicants, ill-will and lust" 

"Do no violence to a Brahman, 
But neither let him fly at his aggressor. 
Woe to him who strikes a Brahman; 
More woe to him who strikes the striker." 

"What is the use of plaited hair, O fool I 
What of a garment of skins? 
Your low yearnings are within you. 
And the outside thou makest clean." 

"A mendicant, who is fond of disputes, is walled in by 
ignorance, and understands neither religion nor the law of 

"A mendicant having received in right time, his meal, 
returning alone, should sit in private, reflecting within 


himself; he should not spread out his mind; his mind 
should he well controlled. Should he speak with a follower 
of the Buddha' or another mendicant, he should speak of 
the excellent Law, and not backbite or speak ill of another. 
Some fortify themselves for controversy. We praise not 
those small-minded persons. Temptations from this source 
and that are made to cling to them, and they certainly 
send their minds very far away when they engage in 

The mendicant that Gautama had in his mind when he 
uttered the above passages, may be as easily discovered 
amongst the thousands that wear the yellow robe to-day, 
as a needle in a mountain of hay. 

After a short interval the priests put oflf their robes and 
return to the world. If they are wanted for corvee or 
conscription they stay an indefinite period in their safe 
retreat. The yellow robes are never taken away, but are 
given by him who is leaving them, to one of the inmates 
of the same monastery. If a priest is thought to be dying 
the robes are taken from him, for they must not be con- 
taminated with death. They are afterwards hung on the 
sacred Bo-tree, but never burned. Anyone who has once 
been a priest, but has returned to a secular life, may re- 
enter the priesthood whenever he chooses, but he must be 
again formally presented and ordained. 

In the vicinity of several temples women with shaven 
heads and white dresses are sometimes seen. They are not 
always mourners for the dead, but belong to an order of 


nuns. The first nun was Buddha's foster-mother, who 
after the death of his father,, wished to be ordained. 
Buddha at first refused to comply with her wishes, but on 
the intercession of his favourite disciple^ Ananda, he granted 
the request. Ananda's wife, a half-sister of Buddha, was 
also subsequently ordained as a nun. The order of nuns 
does not appear to have been at any time half as flourish- 
ing as that of the monks. Nuns in Siam are very old 
widows. They do no teaching, sewing, or work of any 
description. To them the temple is a form of alms-house 
where they will be lodged and fed as long as they live. 



Every single town and village of Siam is crowded with 
temples, or ''wats/' as they are locally called. Compared 
with similar religious institutions in England, their number 
seems to be out of all proportion to the number of the 
population. Their variety of size and method of decoration, 
as well as their number, is sufficiently conspicuous to make 
even the most casual observer enquire why they abound to 
such an extent. And the reason for this superabundance 
of religious edifices is not to be found in the immense 
number of people who are popularly supposed to believe 
in the teachings of Buddha, but rather in a very prevalent, 
but degraded form of one of the tenets of an originally 
pure doctrine. For though it is usually stated that five 
hundred millions of people are believers in, and followers 
of *'The Light of Asia," no one who has lived in a 
Buddhist country will venture to assert that half that 
number are regular attendants at the temple on the Bud- 
dhist Sunday, or that the vast majority of the people do 
anything more than passively accept the superstitions of 
their forefathers without ever enquiring or even caring 


whether they are the true teachings of Buddha or not. 

Ask any person you meet a few questions about the 

sage who propounded the faith that they are supposed to 

hold, and it will be speedily discovered that even those 

who are most assiduous in their attendance at the temple, 

and who are most charitable in the offerings they give to 

their priests, know little of the life and less of the teachings 

of him whom they apparently worship. It will be at once 

evident to the readers of the foregoing chapters of this 

book, that the people whose customs are here treated of, 

though nominally Buddhists, and classed en masse as such 

in Western calculations of the number of those who worship 

the great Indian teacher of old, are guided in their daily 

lives, not by the principles of an old world faith, but 

rather by a number of powerful superstitions gathered at 

different times from the different nations by whom they 

are surrounded, or with whom they have come into close 

contact, which superstitions have little if anything to do 

with Buddhism. It is not possible to call them Buddhists 

at all, if the term is to be used as comparable to the 

term Christian as applied to the believers in Christ 

in Western lands. The great moral precepts of their 

religion are not taught to them, are unknown to them, 

and it is very questionable if the Sanskrit words for 

benevolence, gratitude, charity, and kindred virtues have 

any parallel in the ordinary everyday vocabulary of the 

people. Even if such words do exist, they are only 

understood by the learned few, and would be as utterly 



incomprehensible to the great mass of the people as Greek 
and Latin. 

Temples then, not being required as houses of continual 
or devout worship, why do they abound, not only in the 
capital, but in every village, and on the banks of every 
river and canal throughout the length and breadth of the 
whole kingdom ? The explanation is found in the fact that 
the people believe that in order to make merit during this 
life to save themselves from misery in some future exist- 
ence, they must among other things follow "the religion 
which teaches alms-giving." "Make merit** That is the 
sum and substance of their religious faith and worship. 
As every reader of Buddhism knows, the soul is said 
to pass through many stages of existence before it reaches 
the mysterious region of Nirvana, and that it is possible 
for any soul to pass even beyond the shadowy confines of 
this debatable territory and finally attain the perfect con- 
dition of Buddhahood. At death, the merit and demerit 
of the soul are balanced, and the next condition of the 
wandering soul determined according to a system of debit 
and credit. The wicked king may be re-bom as a slave 
or even pass into the body of a toad. The soul of a slave 
may be re-born in one of royal degree or may even 
ascend to an habitation in the celestial spheres. Hence it 
behoves every living being during this life upon earth to 
make as much merit as it possibly can, and as the custom 
of alms-giving is held to be a very profitable method of 
investment for the future, it is widely practised by king 



and peasant alike, each giving to the priests or to those 
of his feliow-men who may be in distress, according to the 
abundance of his possession of this world's goods. That 
portion of Buddha's teaching which deals with the law of 
cause and effect in its relation to the progression or retro- 
gression of migrating souls, has been lost to all except the 
few, and a mere superstition reig^ns in its stead. 

An English resident in Siam had a servant who frequently 
absented himself from his duties. On each occasion, when 
questioned by his master as to the cause of his absence, he 
replied, "Please, sir, I went to make merit" Said the 
Englishman, perhaps a little too irreverently, " At the rate 
you are making merit, I should think you would be an 
archangel when you die." — "Ah no," replied the servant, 
"I don't want to be an angel. I don't want to get to 
Nirvana. I shouldn't like to make enough merit to get to 
Nirvana; I only want to make just enough merit to be 
born back again into this world as a royal prince, with 
lots of money, plenty of wives and heaps of fun." 

"Merit" is made in many other ways besides alms- 
giving and feeding the priests. A woman who was robbed 
devoted the lost money to merit-making, and gave it 
charitably away. Even the scattering of limes containing 
lottery tickets at important cremations and public ceremonies 
is considered merit-making. Tradition relates that when 
Buddha was being sorely tempted by the evil Mara, he 
appealed to the fiend to answer whether or not, he, the 
tempted one, had not in his lifetime on earth been con- 


spicuous for generous alms-giving, and the world made 
affirmative answer for him by a gigantic earthquake. And 
so the modern Buddhist believes that his merit-making 
and his alms-giving will cry out on his behalf when he 
passes from this earthly life into some other condition at 
present unrevealed to him. 

Even their reluctance to kill any living thing is merely 
another form of the same belief. That it is wrong to 
destroy the life of anything, be it that of a seed or that 
of a snake, for the reasons taught by Buddha, they do not 
seem to know. But they have it firmly established amongst 
their current superstitions that to take life would be an act 
of demerit that would be reckoned against them in the 
future, and so they abstain from killing, though they will 
readily eat what others have destroyed. They justify their 
fishing operations by saying that they do not kill the 
fish, but that they only pull them out of the water, after 
which they die a natural death. 

Now one of the most ostentatious ways of purchasing 
future happiness is the building of a "wat." There the 
priests will find a home; there the people may adorn the 
images, make frequent offerings to Buddha, and engage in 
other meritorious works ; there the children may be taught to 
read and write ; and there all men may see a lasting evidence 
of the wealth and devotion of the builders. And so temples 
were built year by year without ceasing, until there are hun- 
dreds more than would be wanted even if every man, woman, 
and child in the land were regular worshippers. Time lays 




its heavy hand upon these perishable structures and works 
their ruin. Seeds sprout in nooks and crevices and their 
growing roots burst open the walk and roofs. The torrent 
rains lend their powerful aid in the work of destruction, and 
in the course of the builder's life-time the sacred building 
may become a ruin. But until quite lately, these ** wats *' were 
never repaired ; they were buijt and left to crumble. The con- 
tinued erection of temples has been suspended during late 
years, partly owing to the influence of the king, who has 
wisely urged that the repairing of an old and falling "wat" 
is a more useful and equally effective way of making merit 
than the building of a new one. 

The word "wat," or temple, includes many structures. 
They frequently stand in extensive grounds^ shaded by giant 
banyans, and surrounded by strong, well-built walls or fences. 
They are refuges for destitute animals as well as for men 
seeking retirement. The litter of pariah puppies that must 
not be destroyed, although not wanted, is deposited inside 
the temple grounds, there to be fed on the scraps that 
remain when the monks have finished their midday meal. 
The central building or church where the idols are kept, 
the prayers recited, and the priests ordained, is called the 
''bote.'' Round about it are the houses or cells inhabited 
by the monks. These may be of wood or stone, of an 
orthodox cell-like pattern, or they may be ordinary native 
houses specially erected in the precincts of the "bote" for 
the accommodation of tlie priests. They should possess no 
furniture, and rarely do so. 


All temples may be divided into two classes, called 
respectively Wat Luang and Wat Ratsadon. The first are 
endowed and dedicated by royalty, while the second class 
comprises all others. The land on which these buildings 
are erected becomes for ever the property of the chapter, 
and cannot be taken away by law, or sold, or in any way 
disposed of for secular purposes. The central buildings are 
chiefly of a uniform oblong shape, and are built of wood, 
brick, or stone, the outer walls being washed or painted 
white. A colonnade runs round the outside, supported by 
strong, square pillars of teak-wood, that lean inwards from 
the base to the roof. The roof may be built in one, two or 
three tiers, but is always covered with differently coloured 
tiles arranged in symmetrical patterns. Gold-leaf is lavishly 
used in the ornamentation of the gabled ends of the roof, 
and a new temple, with the mid-day sun shining full upon 
it, presents a very brilliant appearance, especially when seen 
through the bright green foliage around it. The walls are 
pierced by a number of windows which are closed by strong 
teak shutters. The doors of the poorer temples are of plain, 
unvarnished, undecorated teak, and though solid, are not 
handsome. In the wealthier "wats*' the decoration of doors 
and windows is often very beautiful. The doors are either 
ornamented with very intricate designs worked in gold 
upon a black background, or with scenes in the life of 
Buddha worked in mother-of-pearl upon a foundation of 
shining black lacquer. The interiors of the numerous " botes " 
are variously adorned. There may be only dirty walls, or 


brilliant mosaics, elaborate designs or painted pictures. Some 
of the pictures are extremely funny. In one of the temples 
in the capital, the artist who has been entrusted with the 
internal decorations has mixed together in ludicrous confusion, 
scenes from the life of Buddha, events in Hindoo mythology, 
and rough reproductions of old European drawings. He has 
placed a number of European ladies and gentlemen of the 
time of Louis XIV, on the side of a hill, where they are 
enjoying themselves with dance and song. It is a rural 
picnic. Under the hill is a railway tunnel with a train about 
to enter, and on the summit is Buddha in a contemplative 
attitude brooding over the whole, but owing to the faulty 
perspective of the drawing, it is impossible to state whether 
Buddha is contemplating the scene of merriment, or brooding 
over the curious handiwork of the designer. . 

One image of Buddha in a sitting posture occupies the 
place of honour at the far end of the temple, facing the 
door. The number of smaller images varies considerably 
from half a dozen to several hundreds. In one of the temples 
in the old capital of Ayuthia there are over twenty thousand. 
They are covered all over with gold-leaf, and the eyes of 
the larger ones are made of mother-of-pearl. Some of the 
most barbarous laws in the Siamese civil code relate to the 
profanation of idols. They are never enforced now, and 
any need for them must at any time have been very small. 

Section 48 of the above code is : " If a thief steal an 
image of Buddha, and use various devices for removing 
its ornaments, such as washing or smelting, let him be put 


into a furnace and be treated in exactly the same way as 
he treated the image, and thus pay for his wickedness." 

Section 49 says, "If any thief strip a Buddha image of 
its gold or gilding, let him be taken to a public square 
and a red-hot iron rubbed over him till he is stripped of 
his skin, as he stripped the image of its gold, and thus 
pay for his crime. If a thief scratch the gold from a Buddha 
image, pagoda, or temple, or sacred tree, let his fingers 
be cut off." 

Heaped round the altar are the offerings of the merit- 
makers,— old bottles, Birmingham-made vases, clocks, china, 
saucers, joss-sticks, looking-glasses, bits of coloured glass, 
and many other articles of equally trivial value. In addition 
to these things for the adornment of the altar or the use 
of the temple, the priests also receive food, clothes, money, 
mosquito netting, boats and small pieces of native furniture. 
After a big alms-giving day the interior of the sacred pile 
looks something like an auction room awaiting the com- 
mencement of a sale. 

The " Prachadee " is a conspicuous feature of all ecclesi- 
astical architecture. It is a brick or stone monument, round 
at the base, but tapering to a long thin spire at the top, 
as shown in several of the illustrations in this book. It 
represents the primitive tope or relic mound, and covers 
either a relic or an image of Buddha. When a genuine 
relic cannot be obtained, an imitation of one answers the 
same purpose. Around the "bote", the most holy of all 
the buildings, are placed eight stones, one at each of the 


eight chief points of the compass. They are called **bai 
sema," and are cut in the shape of the leaf of the ficus 
religiosa or Bo-tree. They mark out the boundaries of the 
consecrated part of the **vvat.'* They are erected when the 
temple is first consecrated. Eight round smooth stones are 
first buried a little way below the ground, together with 
the relic or image. Holy water is sprinkled over them, and 
across the boundary thus formed the spirits of evil intent 
have not the courage to intrude. Small, solid, cubical plat- 
forms of brick are built over the stones, and on the platforms 
are placed the gilded or painted stone representations of 
the sacred leaf. These again are covered with a canopy 
of stone cut in a similar shape, and often elaborately carved 
or inlaid with mosaics. 

Every monastery has its bell-tower, whose chimes call 
the priests to prayers, tell when the sun has crossed its 
midday path, and "toll the knell of parting day*'. The 
towers are of wood and have three stories, in each of 
which is placed one bell. The bells are painted pale 
blue, and ornamented with broad plain bands of gold-leaf, 
which run round the rim, and also divide the surface into 
four equal segments. They are remarkable for their purity 
of tone, and are not to be equalled by the bells usually 
found in Western churches. The tone is soft and sweet, 
and at the same time so penetrating that it can be heard 
for long distances. The bells are not rung, but are beaten. 
The first few strokes are given slowly and gently, then they 
gradually increase in rapidity and force, till the bell resounds 


under a torrent of blows, the tone becoming louder and 
louder, but never jarring or discordant. 

Not only at every temple, but in many secluded spots 
at the entrances to lonely canals, and on the edges of the 
distant jungle, rest-houses are built for the use of wanderers. 
They are called "salas", and to build a **sala" is a work 
of merit. As the erection of one of these rest-houses 
involves less expense than the building of a temple, tliey 
are therefore even more abundant than the temples. They 
consist simply of a wooden platform raised a few feet above 
the ground by strong posts. Several pillars round the sides 
of the platform support a thatched or tiled roof. There 
are no walls and no rooms. Here the traveller, be he 
native or foreigner, may hold a picnic, may eat, rest, and 
sleep without expense or interruption. Madmen and lunatics 
choose the rest-houses near the temples as places where 
they can live quietly without fear of molestation. 

The description given above would apply to the majority 
of Siamese temples. But it is worth our while to look in 
detail at a few of the more noted temples in the capital. 

The royal temple, Wat Prakow, stands within the circum- 
ference of the outer wall that surrounds the palace and the 
government offices, and on account of the part it plays in 
important State ceremonies, and because it is the king's 
own place of worship, it is far more elaborate than any of 
the other temples of the country. At this temple the water 
of allegiance is taken and the oath of allegiance is sworn, 
and in the same building was held the requiem service for 



the late Crown Prince. A central "prachadee" stands in 
the court-yard of the temple, surrounded by many similar 
structures of lesser height and beauty. The large one in 
the centre towers high above all the surrounding buildings, 
and is said to be covered with plates of gold. It certainly 
looks like a solid mass of that precious metal, and at 
sunrise and sunset wKen it catches the roseate hues of the 
rising or the setting sun, its golden surface can be seen 
from afar, shining and glittering like a second sun itself, 
above the coloured roofs of the temples and the white or 
many-tinted spires that are associated with it. The smaller 
relic mounds are covered with mosaics of glass and enamel 
roughly set in plaster. The bits of glass and enamel are 
not laid in the plaster so as to form a level surface, but 
here and there they stand out in tiny rosettes, branches 
and flowers, and fruit and animals. At a distance the rude 
character of the workmanship is totally hidden, the tawdry 
appearance of the material is completely lost, and as the 
uneven surfaces reflect the brilliant light of the sun, the 
spire-capped shrines form a series of glittering satellites 
around the central spire of gold. 

From the temple court-yard the roof of the large and 
imposing modern palace can be seen. In the centre, and 
at either end of the triple-coloured roof, is one of those 
crown-shaped spires so common in all state and ecclesias- 
tical buildings in Siam. It has been stated that ''upon a 
nearer approach to the magnificent spectacle of Wat Pra- 
kow, so dazzling is the effect that it is hard to convincs 


yourself that you are not actually standing before buildings 
set with precious stones." Now this is not by any means 
true. The temples of Buddha in Siam are like Buddhism 
itself, seen to the greatest advantage when distance has 
lent its proverbial enchantment. Even as the moral teaching 
of the great philosopher when viewed through the spectacles 
of Western professors, is a very different creed to that 
followed by the people, so the temples when seen through 
the golden mist of early morning from a distant point of 
view, are brilliant and beautiful beyond description, though 
on a nearer view, the perishable and paltry character of 
the material of which they are constructed destroys the 
appearance of magnificence, leaving, however, in the place 
of earlier impressions, a feeling of wonder at the marvellous 
skill of the people who can produce such striking effects 
from such tawdry material. Near to the gilded "prachadee" 
is the actual "bote*' used by the king, surmounted by a 
similar spire, which is overlaid with sapphire-coloured plates 
of glass and porcelain; while a little distance away stands 
the larger temple, set in parts with mosaics of emerald green 
upon a gilt background. There are several smaller spires 
of ruby red, bright yellow, or snowy white, standing amongst 
this mass, whose tapering summits are exceedingly slender 
and graceful in form, though the raised flowers and decor- 
ations that surround their bases are made of nothing but 
common porcelain and glass. One really valuable *^ pracha- 
dee ** is constructed of pure white marble, and stands upon 
a heavy base supported by seven elephants cast in bronze, 


In various places near the doors of the temple, or the gates 
in the walls surrounding the courtyard, there are a number 
of enormous, grotesque figures, some in helmets, and some 
in old-fashioned chimney-pot hats. They are evidently of 
foreign origin, and the sculptor has produced an extremely 
comical effect by so -cutting the eyes as to give them an 
unmistakable leer or wink. They represent demons, and 
are supposed to guard the entrance to the sacred edifice. 
Each figure leans upon a gigantic staff, and gazes into the 
faces of all those who enter the courtyard or buildings. 
There are also griffins in stone, the representations of powerful 
kings who keep the world from being entirely captured by 
the spirits of evil. The stone lions are the emblems of 
Shakyamuni in his character as king of men and beasts. 
A large, bronze figure of the sitting Buddha rests opposite 
a row of these quaintly carved images of men and animals. 
It is seated upon a pedestal of marble under a canopy 
fashioned in imitation of a lotus leaf. The lotus leaf is the 
Buddhist lily, even as the Bo-tree is the Buddhist cross, 
and the forms of both these plant structures appear again 
and again in temple decorations. The lotus is especially 
noticeable in the lotus-shaped capitals of the huge teak 
pillars that support the roofs and colonnades of the 
holy "bote." 

The court-yard which contains all these vari-coloured 
and fantastic shrines and images, is paved with slabs of 
white stone and marble, which reflect the heat and light of 
the sun with oppressive intensity. Other creations in marble, 



bronze, stone, and wood, set with the same mosaics of 
cheap china and common glass, and representing Europeans, 
fishes, dolphins, and fabulous monsters are scattered pro- 
fusely but irregularly amongst the larger and more con- 
spicuous monuments. The roofs are covered with coloured 
tiles. There is a central rectangle in orange, yellow or 
red, with its edges set parallel to the roof, while round it 
run several borders in red, blue, and green. Owing to the 
height of the buildings these coloured roofs are always so 
far removed from the eye of the spectator that they never 
lose their artistic appearance. The gables are of wood or 
metal, and curve upwards at the ends into a peculiar orna- 
ment, which is so common in civil as well as religious 
architecture as to cause much speculation as to its mean- 
ing. It has been described as being symbolical of many 
things, but it most probably represents the head of the 
Naga or king of snakes. Round the edges of the roofs 
of several of the constituent buildings of this royal "wat," 
are hung many small sweetly toned bells, whose silvery 
voices may be heard in the farthest corners of the enclosure 
as they swing to and fro with every gentle breeze. The 
windows and doors are deeply sunk in the extremely thick 
walls. They are covered with black lacquer and look as 
though they were made of ebony. Designs in mother-of- 
pearl have been worked into the lacquer, while the hinges 
and fastenings of the separate shutters have been richly 
The floor of the chief building is covered with matting 


Pa^^e 283. 


made entirely of woven silver wire. The roof is lofly, and 
is made of teak. The room is of the usual oblong shape, 
but at the further end a magnificent altar-like shrine 
stretches from side to side. The sides of this valuable altar 
are covered with gold-leaf and gilded glass, which lose a 
little of their dazzling brilliancy, though they gain in depth 
of colour, in the subdued light of the interior. Small pra- 
chadees in clusters stand at the same end of the temple, 
all heavily gilt This Buddhist temple is unique amongst 
Siamese temples in containing objects of real value. Inside 
there is nothing tawdry and cheap. Everything is genuine 
as becomes the gift of a king. On a square table at the 
back, supported on the tall conical hats of twelve large 
figures, are seated seven figures of Buddha, in pure solid 
gold. One hand of each of the figures is raised and point- 
ing upwards. On every finger and thumb of the uplifted 
hand glitters a king's ransom in rings of emeralds, sap- 
phires, and rubies, while in the centre of each palm shines 
and flashes a rosette of diamonds. Away up in a dim 
recess towards which the seven hands are pointing, there 
is an image of Buddha, often said to be cut out of one 
enormous emerald. In reality, it is made of jade. This 
stone is reported to be of priceless value. It cannot 
easily be examined by visitors as it is partly hidden in 
shadow, but with a pair of opera-glasses the features are 
easily distinguishable. The idol is said to have fallen from 
heaven into one of the Laos states. It was captured firom 
these Northern people by its present owners. It possesses 


three diamond eyes of great value, the third of which is 
set in the centre of the forehead. It has several times been 
lost or stolen, but has always been recovered. 

There are many rare and precious vessels for the temple 
services, such as cups, incense burners, and candlesticks 
made of gold and studded with jewels, but unfortunately 
the workmanship is in some cases very defective, and the 
stones have lost a great deal of their value by being badly 
set and cut. One or two museum cases are to be seen, 
containing offerings made by royalty or wealthy noblemen. 
Round the base of the altar are a number of ebony tables 
holding the usual vases, wax flowers, and clocks, but in 
this temple they are all of real value. 

The walls and ceiling are painted in native style and 
colour, with scenes from the life of Buddha, and from the 
Hindoo myth of Ramayana. They are executed with that 
curious absence of perspective common to Oriental pictures, 
but nevertheless many of the figures are full of life and 
action. In particular, the elephants are usually accurately 
drawn, though strangely coloured. 

We may fitly close this chapter with an account of one 
of the country temples given by H. Wariugton Smyth in 
his " Notes of a Journey on the Upper Mekong.*' 

" At Wieng Chan, on the north bank (of the Mekong), 
the remains of the great Wat Prakaon are very fine ; the 
latter rises from a series of terraces, up which broad flights 
of steps lead, and is of large proportions. The effect of 
height is increased by the perpendicular lines of the tall 


columns which support the g^^eat east and west porticos, 
and which line the walls along the north and south; the 
windows between the latter being small, and narrower at 
the top than at the bottom, also lead the eye up. A second 
row of columns once existed, and the effect must have been 
very fine. Now the roof is gone, and the whole structure 
crowned by a dense mass of foliage, as is the case with 
all the remains of smaller buildings not yet destroyed. One 
very beautiful little pagoda at the west end is now encased 
in a magnificent peepul tree which has grown in and around 
it, and has preserved it in its embrace. There are remains 
of several deep water-tanks; and the grounds, which were 
surrounded by a brick wall, must once have been beauti- 
ful. But the best thing at Wieng Chan, or the old city, as 
they call it, is the gem of a monastery known as Wat 
Susaket It is a small building, the Wat itself, of the usual 
style, with a small lantern rising from the central roof. The 
walls are very massive, and, with the height inside, the 
place was delightfully cool ; all round the interior, from floor 
to roof, the walls are honeycombed with small niches in 
rows, in which stand the little gilt images, looking out 
imperturbably, generally about eight inches in height. 

" Round this building, outside, runs a rectangular cloister 
which faces inwards, and here, at one time, the monks were 
living amongst the statues which stand round the walls, 
many of these three and more feet high, while the walls 
too are ornamented with niches similar to those inside the 
main building. In the centre of each side there is a gate- 


way surmounted by a gable, there being also similar orna- 
ments at each corner. The beauty and retired air of the 
court inside could not be surpassed, and the effect of the 
green grass, the white walls, the low-reaching, red-tiled roofs, 
and the deep shadows is charming; there is nothing flat, 
nothing vulgarly gaudy, and very little that is out of repair. 
And here, as is most noticeable in the remains of the other 
buildings about, the proportions are perfect. In this the 
ruined remains of Wieng Chan surpass all other buildings 
I have seen in Siam, and bear witness to a true artistic 
sense in the builders." 


AMONG THE TEMPLES [continued). 

Several of the larger " wats " in the capital are deserving 
of further notice. The largest temple in the country is 
Wat Poh. It has often been said that ''he who has seen 
Wat Poh has seen every Buddhist temple in Siam.*' It 
covers an immense extent of ground in the very heart of 
the great city, and inside its high brick walls are gathered 
together examples in wood and stone, in bronze and 
porcelain, of ever3rthing connected with ecclesiastical archi- 
tecture in the country. Its chief attraction is an immense 
idol. In one of the lofty buildings lies a sleeping Buddha 
of gigantic proportions. It is probably the largest image 
of its kind in the world. The room containing it is over 
two hundred feet long. The idol itself is one hundred and 
seventy-five feet long, so that it practically occupies the 
whole of the building, with the exception of a narrow 
passage all round the base of the rectangular brick plat- 
form on which it reclines. The heavy shutters and ponder- 
ous doors are always locked, except when some inquisitive 
foreigner desires to view. His wish can be gratified by 
the payment to the man in charge of a fee varying from 


eighteen-pence to two shillings. After payment has been 
made, the gigantic doors are flung open and the visitor 
enters, only to find himself in almost total darkness. One 
by one a few of the heavy shutters are slowly opened and 
a little daylight gradually admitted The light falls upon 
the dull red walls or elaborate frescoes, and upon the sides 
of the sleeping figure, but loses itself at last in the dim 
recesses of the lofty roof. When the eye has become 
accustomed to the gloom, the peculiar wonder of the spec- 
tacle begins to be appreciated. The whole of the building 
or the image cannot be seen from any one point of view. 
The gigantic idol is made of brick, which has been covered 
over with cement. Upon the cement a smooth layer of lacquer 
has been deposited, and then the whole coated with gold-leaf. 
The figure measures eighteen feet across the chest; the feet 
are fifteen feet in length ; and the toes are each three feet 
long. The soles of the feet are inlaid with symbols in mother- 
of-pearl, according to the legend which states that Buddha 
had upon his feet at birth a number of signs that proclaimed 
his true character. The head is covered with a conical 
cluster of spiral curls, the apex of the cone being far away 
from human eye in the shadows of the rafted roof. 

The sketch of the figure given in this book is the only 
drawing of the idol in existence, and no photo has ever 
been taken by any of the local photographers owing to 
the darkness of the interior. It was only on payment of a 
heavy bribe that the caretaker allowed the artist to put up 
his easel. After further debate, followed by a fee, he 











condescended to open a few more windows so as to admit 
sufficient light to render any sketching possible. While the 
sketch was being made, a small piece of the gilded lacquer 
fell from the chest of the recumbent idol. In less time 
almost than it takes to write of the occurrence, the windows 
were closed, the place veiled in utter darkness, and the 
artist unceremoniously requested to leave the building. 
The man evidently expected the whole structure to fall 
upon his unlucky head as a punishment for allowing the 
sacred place to be so desecrated by the white man. Doubt- 
less by this time the caretaker has worked off the de- 
merit he earned that day, by devoting some of the money 
he then received to purchasing merit in one of the many 
ways known to him. 

In the grounds of Wat Poh there are several ponds, 
shaded by magnificent trees, and surrounded by grotesque 
figures in stone. These ponds are the homes of a few 
alligators, which are kept and fed by the priests and 
servants of the temple. 

Almost opposite to Wat Poh, on the other bank of the 
river, is Wat Chang, a marvel to every one who has ever 
seen it. The actual "bote," the priests' houses, and the 
relic mounds are in no respect extraordinary, but on the 
bank of the river is a huge monument consisting of a 
series of pagodas resting on a square base. It is this 
collection of pinnacles that attracts and charms the eye. 
Their form is not that of the slender-spired "prachadec," 
but that of a bluntly pointed pyramid, and they are known 


as "praprang." Viewed from a little distance, they look, 
as any photo shows, like a collection of beautifully carved 
stone pinnacles, but a closer view reveals the fact that they 
are only made of brick and plaster and covered with 
divers figures made of broken plates and saucers. Thou- 
sands upon thousands of pieces of cheap china must have 
been smashed to bits in order to furnish sufHcient material 
to decorate this curious structure. It must be admitted 
that though the material is tawdry, the effect is indescrib- 
ably wonderful. It is not until one stands close to the 
work itself that it is possible to realise that the elaborate 
designs and the quaint figures are merely so many pieces 
of common china. The tallest of the pagodas, the one in 
the centre, can be seen from many points in the city, and 
by ascending the steps that lead half way up to the summit, 
a magnificent view of the capital itself is gained. The 
winding river and the broad canals shine like ribbons of 
burnished silver; the houses are hidden beneath masses of 
foliage, from amongst whose leafy crowns the prettily 
coloured roofs and the graceful white spires of many temples 
stand out in bold and picturesque relief. At sunset the 
details of the structure of the pagodas of Wat Chang are 
lost, but the mass of spires and pinnacles takes on a purple 
tint which changes to one of dusky hue as the light fades 
slowly from the sky. The whole edifice is in its way a 
triumph of decorative skill of which the people are reasonably 

The Golden Hill is the name given to an artificial mound 


about two hundred feet high, which faces the public crema- 
torium where the vultures congregate. At first it is difficult 
to believe that it is not a genuine hillock, for though later 
investigation shows it to be constructed of bricks and 
mortar, trees have been planted on it and creepers trained 
over it, till it looks as though Nature in some sportive 
mood had raised an isolated hill amidst the broad extent 
of low-lying plain by which it is surrounded. On the summit 
of this leaf-clad brick and plaster mound is a snow-white 
prachadee with a very large base. The interior of the 
round basal portion is an open room, in the middle of 
which, guarded by iron railings, stands a gilded shrine 
containing an imitation in glass of the famous tooth of 
Buddha which is preserved in Ceylon. From the size of 
the original it is evidently spurious, for it is impossible to 
conceive that the ancient philosopher and teacher possessed 
the benign and dignified aspect that is attributed to him, 
if the tooth shown is really genuine. The scoffing sceptic 
has even hinted that it is of equine origin. The Bangkok 
relic is not shown to the worshippers. It is hidden in 
its gilt case, and many of the natives who bow before the 
shrine really believe that the object it contains is not an 
imitation, but an actual tooth of Buddha. Steep stone 
staircases lead from the smooth lawn at the base to the 
shrine upon the summit. In clear weather the view extends 
far away to the jungle-clad interior m one direction, and in 
the other, to the distant blue hills upon the eastern shores 
of the gulf. At one time foreigners frequently ascended 


The Golden Hill for the sake of the view, but since the 
time of the Franco-Siamese trouble it has been guarded by 
soldiers, and no one is allowed to pass the sentries on 
duty without a special permit signed by the Minister for 
Foreign Affairs. 

On three days of the year, however, when a special 
holiday occurs in connection with the worship of the relic, 
the hill is open to every one. Around the base are set up 
numerous stalls, booths, and side-shows, and a native fair 
with all its varied attractions draws thousands of people to 
the spot. Side by side are the booths where the mission- 
aries sell their school books and their translations of certain 
portions of the Bible, and the stalls where the wonderful 
wicker-work made by the prisoners in the jails is offered 
for sale. Gambling tents, shadow pantomimes, and Chinese 
theatres are in full swing. There is but very little direct 
purchasing. Nearly every booth has a lottery. You may pay 
sixpence for the privilege of rolling three wooden balls 
along a bagatelle table. You will then be allowed to choose 
an article whose value varies according to the numbers in 
the holes into which the little spheres have rolled. At 
another place a man stands behind a board in which a 
square hole has been cut on a level with his face. He moves 
his head quickly backwards and forwards in front of the 
hole, poking out his tongue and rolling his eyes with mar- 
vellous rapidity. At the quickly appearing and disappearing 
countenance you are permitted to throw three tennis balls, 
and if you are successful in hitting the distorted features, 


you receive a prize of little value. It is an Oriental form of 
Aunt Sally, with a living Aunt of male extraction, willing 
to be a target at the rate of three shots for sixpence. On 
another stall every article has a thread fastened to it. The 
loose ends of the cotton strands are collected and passed 
through a bit of hollow bamboo about six inches long. You 
pay your money and you choose your thread. Then the 
proprietor traces it out, and you get what is fastened to 
the other end of it. The prizes range from a common piece 
of slate pencil, to a penny exercise book, and a German 

All the merit-makers before indulging in the fun of the 
fair, first buy a bit of gold-leaf, a few wax flowers, or a 
tiny candle, then mount the steep and broken steps, kneel 
in front of the shrine, stick their gold-leaf on the iron rail- 
ings, light their candles and fix them on iron spikes, and 
throw their waxen blossoms into a blazing bonfire. The 
visitor to the summit looks down upon a ring of twinkling 
lights, beyond which lies the deep darkness. The air is full 
of many sounds. A native band discourses native airs with 
customary vigour in front of the shrine itself; a military 
band plays operatic selections in a baod-stand half way up 
the hill; and the devotees bang the big deep-toned bells 
with more force than is demanded by purely religious 
feeling. Up from the crowd below comes the roar of 
hundreds of human voices, the cries of the cheap jacks and 
lottery owners, and the shouts of the men with the shows, 
all telling of the animation and excitement that exists 


amongst the dark-looking figures that ever move, but never 
leave a vacant spot in the brilliant torch-lit avenues and 
passages. The priests sit in long pavilions, their yellow 
robes and shaven heads set off by the red and white 
draperies of their temporary resting-places. They drink tea 
and chew betel-nut incessantly, chatter and laugh with 
animation, and evidently enjoy the fun quite as much as 
any of their lay brethren who have come to the place for 
the double purpose of making merry and making merit. 

Another temple, Wat Samplum, boasts a copy of Buddha's 
famous footprint, which is also worshipped amidst much 
jollity for three days each year. This footprint is sunk in 
the centre of the floor of a small spire-crowned room on 
the top of a low artificial hillock. It has no toes and also 
no heel. It is shaped like an infant's bath, and is about 
three feet long, two feet wide, and eighteen inches deep, 
and has been cut or moulded with strict mathematical 
regularity. It passes the wit of any European to imagine 
by what process of logical or illogical reasoning any person 
could bring himself to look upon this curious object as 
having the slightest resemblance to a human footprint. The 
usual fair accompanies the worship, and the believers have 
no sooner plastered their bit of gold-leaf on the sides or 
sole of the footprint than they descend the little elevation 
to take their part in the fun that rages fast and furiously 
at the bottom. 

There are in several of the northern mountain ranges or 
isolated hills large limestone or granite caves which have 


been utilised at various times for religious putposes. Near 
to the walled city of Karnbooree on the River Meklong, 
there is one large cave which was used as a store-house 
for idols and offerings during the last war between the 
Siamese and Burmese. Here the discoloured images and 
the withered offerings remain to this day, rarely visited by 
any one ; the entrances to the cavern being nearly blocked 
up by the jungle growth which has flourished undisturbed 
for many years. 

In the town of Petchabooree there are several caves 
occupying the whole interior of a hill which is open at the 
summit and bears all the appearances of an extinct volcano. 
These caves are still distinctly used as temples. Steps have 
been cut in the solid rock to form an easy means of descent 
to their open mouths. One of them receives its light through 
a crater-like opening in the hill-side; some of them are 
too dark to be visited without the aid of torches or lan- 
terns. The floors have in all cases been nicely levelled and 
sandedy while one has been neatly tiled. Idols are arranged 
in rows round the sides, and Buddhas in standing, sleeping, 
or sitting postures occupy every jutting crag and hollow 
corner. Tiny holes, often hidden behind a gigantic image, 
lead into little, dark, dirty, damp recesses with plank beds 
and torch smoked altars, where hermits live, or years ago 
have lived, in retirement. There is something almost gro- 
tesque in these cavern interiors. Huge stalactites and stal- 
agmites shine in the light of the entering sun, or look 
gloomy and solemn in the fitful spluttering of the smoky 


torches There is a grandeur of natural power and strength 
in the great pillars and deep recesses, all tending to make 
the gilded figures of the benevolent Gautama and his chief 
disciples look more tawdry and worthless than when seen 
in their more suitable surroundings in the brick and wooden 
temples of his living followers. 

One very noticeable feature in the interiors of many temple 
buildings is the management of the light to increase their 
solemnity and their impressiveness. For instance, in the 
case of the sleeping Buddha in Wat Poh, even when many 
of the windows round it have been opened, the head is 
still partly hidden in darkness, so that the effect of the 
height is increased and the wonder of the spectator inten- 
sified. And again, Mr. Smyth mentions in the book quoted 
above, a small "wat" called Wat Boria, where "there is a 
very fine Buddha, on whose head and shoulders the light 
is thrown from a small window in the roof. The effect is 
quite impressive, and does great credit to the architect who 
designed it. This is by no means the only place in Siam 
where the light is dexterously managed." He also mentions 
that at Wat Chinareth, *'one enters a monk's doorway at 
the south-eastern corner from a cloister, and is at first lost 
in the gloom. At last the great black columns with their 
elaborate gilt ornamentation (the one decoration they un- 
derstand in Siam) grow out in the feeble light from the little 
narrow windows in the low side walls. The lofty peaked 
roof rises far into blackness." 

Mention has frequently been made of the extensive use 







of gold-leaf in the decoration of shrines and images. The 
import of this commodity is of the annual value of about 
one hundred and sixty to two hundred thousand Mexican 
dollars. And in addition to \yhsit is imported, a large 
quantity is manufactured in Bangkok by Chinese goldsmiths. 
Near to one of the temples inside the city walls there is 
a small settlement whose chief employment is the beating 
of gold-leaf. They get thin pieces of gold about a quarter 
of an inch square, and put them between thick pieces of 
white oily paper. Sheets of gold-leaf and sheets of paper 
are arranged alternately in a pile about two inches thick. 
This packet of paper and gold is put inside a stout leathern 
covering which is left open at two sides, and is then 
placed on a hard stone slab some three or four inches 
thick. The gold-beater takes a large, heavy hammer with 
an iron head, and pounds the little parcel in front of him 
with all his strength. He continues his hammering until 
the bits of gold have been considerably flattened out. He 
next takes the thin gold sheets and puts them between 
finer pieces of white Chinese paper, and then continues 
his pounding until the sheets have become sufliciently 
attenuated to be used for the gilding of images and 
ornaments. Gold-leaf is sold in sheets about three inches 
square at the rate of fifteen to eighteen shillings per thou- 
sand sheets. 

Not only is gold-leaf used for covering idols and shrines, 
but it is also used by native artists in the decorations of 
the walls. Earth colours are used for painting figures and 


scenery; but whenever a figure requires a golden crown 
or ornament, or the representation of a shrine or temple 
requires a golden decoration, then gold-leaf is always used, 
and the contrast between the bright reflecting surface of 
the metal and the dull appearance of the washes of the 
earth colours is very striking. 

A favourite subject for religious pictures is the represent- 
ation of the different hells, of which there are eight. 
Though the account of the infernal regions as given below 
may seem very gruesome, there is nothing repulsive in 
their pictorial presentation by the native artist, owing to 
utter lack of any effect of realism. In fact, most Europeans 
require an interpreter in order to understand their meaning. 
The eight major hells are all places of fearful torment. 
In the first of the series the condemned creature is cut 
into infinitesimal pieces, every cut producing its own 
agonies, as the sense of feeling is never destroyed. When 
the body has thus been mutilated, a wind possessing life- 
restoring properties, blows over the torn remains and 
renovates them once more into a perfect human being, 
which is again mutilated by the attendants. The torment 
is repeated indefinitely; but a time arrives at last when 
the restored body is cast into another portion of the same 
hell to be the sport of cruel monsters. In this first hell 
one day is equal in length to nine hundred thousand years. 

In the second hell the floor is of molten iron, and as 
the lost ones tread the liquid metal they sink into it and 
die in frightful pain. A new life follows the recent death, 


and again and again is the terrible punishment inflicted 
through long periods of time, where one day is measured 
by thirty-six million years upon earth. 

The inhabitants of the third hell have lost a portion of 
their human form. Either they have human heads, and 
animals' bodies, or their human bodies possess animals' 
heads. They are the playthings of innumerable fiends who 
drive them with thongs from one mountain to another, and 
ever as they run, great masses of rock fall upon them, 
wounding and killing them. But as in all the other regions 
inhabited by the guilty, a new life springs from the dead 
bodies, that the cruel torment may be re-inflicted. 

The fourth hell is beautiful to look upon. Its floor is 
covered with the sacred lotus, but hidden amongst its rosy 
petals are sharp-pointed iron spikes. And as the damned 
come to the edges of hell, they are seized by the power- 
ful arms of diabolical monsters, who fling them with Titanic 
force upon the treacherous flowers below. They are flung 
times without number, their wailing and moaning echoing 
and re-echoing through the corridors of hell for a space 
of four thousand years whose every day is equal to seventy- 
six million years upon earth. 

The fifth of the series resembles the fourth inasmuch as 
its floor is covered with iron-spiked blossoms. But the erring 
souls continually attempt to escape. With much anxiety 
of mind and weariness of body, they raise themselves from 
their spiny bed only to be met by fiends armed with 
gigantic sledge-hammers. Fierce blows of their ponderous 


weapons send them reeling back to their torment, amidst 
the horrible laughter of their fierce captors. 

The sixth hell is that of everlasting fire, but of even a 
more revolting character than that preached by so many 
Christian teachers. For amidst the roaring flames of the 
blazing pit scamper the giant dogs of hell, whose teeth are 
of sharpened iron. They seize their prey, and devour it 
with insatiable appetite. After being eaten the wicked are 
re-born, again roasted in the infernal fire, again devoured 
by iron fangs and so on and on for sixteen thousand 
weary years. 

In the seventh hell the sides are steep hills, but they 
apparently present a means of escape. Up the precipitous 
incline the lost ones toil and clamber, but terrific gusts of 
wind ever hurl them headlong to the bottom on to a floor 
of iron spikes. 

The last of the series is another of unquenchable fire. 
Here the lost are so crowded together that they have no 
room to move. This is the deepest and widest hell of all, 
and here the throng of sufferers must endure their torments 
until that day when a great cloud shall appear in the 
heavens, announcing the end of the world. 

As if these eight diabolical creations of some fiendish 
mortal's brain did not contain sufficient terrors to frighten 
the wicked, all the eight major hells have each been sub- 
divided into sixteen minor ones equally revolting. They are 
all of cubical shape, and measure thirty leagues each way; 
but not wishing to weary the reader by detailing their 


several characters, only one is here mentioned in illustration 
of their general nature. In one of these minor hells every 
9ne suffers from intolerable thirst. Through its gloomy 
confines flows a river whose waters are saturated with 
salt The wretches, maddened by the thirst which none 
may relieve, fling themselves into the briny flood. Along 
the banks stand devils with long iron poles with burning 
hooks, who fish them out again, mutilate their bodies with 
the red-hot iron, and when they cry aloud in their mad- 
ness for water, pour molten iron down their scorching 



Religious ceremonies follow one another with incredible 
rapidity in the " Kingdom of the Yellow Robe." They are 
observed by every one, not on account of their religious 
value, but because they afford excellent reasons for indulg- 
ing in general holidays. A few of the more important ones 
will be dealt with in this and the two succeeding chapters. 

Thet MAHA chat. The first one to be noticed here is 
the "Thet maha chat" or "The Preaching of the Story of 
the Great Birth." It does not, like the other ceremonies 
we shall describe, occur on definitely stated days, and in 
many instances, does not give rise to a general national 
holiday. It often occurs as a semi-private or domestic 
religious observance, performed by those and for those 
whom it immediately concerns. Before describing the man- 
ner in which the public and private celebrations of this 
ceremony are held, it will be advisable to relate the story 
of the Great Birth according to the account given in the 
Siamese text, for it is said that this account of the Great 
Birth does not exist in the Buddhist literature of the surround- 
ing countries. 


Buddhist legends, now rejected by many Oriental scholars 
themselves, relate that the Hindoo philosopher once taught 
and enlightened his friends and disciples by relating to 
them at considerable length, five hundred and fifty stories, 
called "jatakas", about himself. These narratives give a 
complete account of the various transmigrations of his soul, 
which he, having attained to Buddhahood, was enabled to 
vividly recall. Of these five hundred and fifty Birth Stories, 
the Vessantara Jataka relates how he lived upon earth as 
a noble and virtuous prince called Vessantara, As this 
was his last existence previous to his re-birth upon earth 
as Buddha, it is held in high estimation by those who 
believe in its authenticity. In previous existences he had 
traversed the whole social scale from king to slave. He 
had been monarch, courtier, Brahmin ascetic, teacher, prince, 
nobleman, merchant, slave, potter, and outcast. He had 
inhabited the bodies of the elephant, tiger, monkey, snake, 
fish, and fi-og. In the supernatural worlds he had been a 
tree-god and a fairy. 

The last ten of the Birth Stories are of the greatest 
interest, as they relate how he successfully attained absolute 
perfection in all things essential to Buddhahood; and the 
first nine of them may be fitly summarised as a preface to 
the story of the tenth or Great Birth. 

The first story tells how he was born as a prince, the 
heir to a throne and a crown. Now, whenever, in previous 
existences, he had reigned as a king, he had invariably 
suffered and fallen in the succeeding life. He was therefore 


very anxious to escape the cares and perils of sovereignty, 
and so he feigned dumbness. His relatives doubted the 
reality of his affliction and tried in many ways to make 
him speak, but all in vain. At last they proposed to bury 
him alive, and the prospect of this cruel death caused him 
at last to speak, that he might save his life. 

In the second story he is again represented as being 
the son of a great monarch. His father's younger brother 
turned traitor, usurped the throne, and put to death him 
whose crown he had taken. The prince was bom in exile, 
but when he arrived at man's estate he was informed of 
his real rank and title, and he determined to attempt to 
regain them. He set sail for his native land, but during 
the voyage a great storm arose, the vessel was wrecked, 
and he only managed to save his life by swimming to the 
distant shore. 

The next Birth Story relates that he was the son of 
blind, ascetic parents, to whom he acted as a faithful 
servant. He trained a pet deer to carry his bowl for him, 
and wherever he went the timid creature accompanied him. 
He was killed in the forest by a stray arrow that a king 
had shot while hunting. 

He was re-bom as a king of wonderful power. His 
dominions included both heaven and hell, and during the 
period of his sovereignty he managed to visit both these 
distant portions of his wide domain. History, however, 
does not relate what he saw or what he did in either of 
these regions. 











He next became the servant of a warrior king, for whom 
he acted in the capacity of counsellor and judge, winning 
for himself great renown for his wisdom and strength of 
character. On one occasion he is credited with engineering 
a tunnel through a mighty mountain, that his royal master 
might fall unawares upon a powerful enemy. The tunnel 
was constructed, and the attack made with complete success. 

The sixth of this set of Birth Stories narrates his career 
as the Naga king, the monarch of the snake world. His 
two chief relatives were a human brother, and a sister who 
inhabited the body of a frog. He himself was a cobra, 
and one day a skilful snake-charmer captured him, and 
took him about from place to place on exhibition. He 
was freed from this humiliating condition by his brother 
and sister, who ingeniously tricked the wandering showman. 

Then again he becomes the son of a king, and holds 
the position of a judge. Owing to his severity in putting 
down bribery and corruption, he incurred the displeasure 
of the Lord Chief Justice, who resented the loss of his valu- 
able perquisites. One night the king dreamt that he had 
paid a visit to the heavenly regions. When he awoke he 
sent for the chief judge, and a^ked him if he could suggest 
any way of realising the journey, as he would very much 
like to visit those realms at his leisure. The judge suggested 
that the trip might be accomplished if the favour of the 
deities was first obtained by making them an offering 
commensurate with his desires. He suggested the sacrifice 
of the prince and all the members of his household. The 


king accepted the idea, and the sacrifice was planned. But 
several courtiers who had reasons for disliking the chief 
judge of the kingdom, revealed to their sovereign the 
enmity that existed between judge and prince. The king, 
furious at the trick that had been played upon him, 
instantly ordered the death of the wicked official, but the 
son, acting with his usual gentleness and mercy, pleaded 
for his enemy and obtained the remission of his sentence- 
In the eighth story he is again a king ; but this time 
devotes his life entirely to the noble practice of alms- 
giving. So great was his generosity that he soon beggared 
himself, and was forced to become a hermit. Having 
nothing left to distribute to those who sought to profit 
by his benevolence, he conceived the idea of finally giving 
his own body away in pieces. But the Devas, wishing to 
save him from the results of such a noble deed, brought 
him presents of nuggets of gold with which to satisfy the 
demands of those who daily asked him for alms. 

The ninth story presents him to us as a wise man 
teaching and counselling a king. His fame was noised 
abroad even unto the uttermost ends of the earth. Amongst 
those who heard of his wisdom and purity was the Queen 
of the Nagas. She was so deeply impressed by the stories 
that reached her, that she fell madly in love with the 
famous counsellor, and wished, not figuratively, but literally, 
to possess his heart. From amongst her numerous attend- 
ants she chose one who was noted for his cunning, and 
sent him as her ambassador to the far-off land, with orders 



to bring back that which she so much desired. He met 

with a certain amount of success, for he won the body of 

the sage by gambling with the king, but all his efforts to I 

put to death the wise old man were ineffectual. And 

when he was meditating as to the reason of the failure of 

his murderous attempts, the old man came to him, and 

spoke to him with words of such tenderness and truth 

that the emissary returned to the Naga Queen without his 

prize, but a better and a wiser man. 

The tenth Birth Story is the last and the greatest, and 
bears the distinctive title of '*The Great Birth." It is the 
story of his last existence upon earth as an ordinary human 
being, and marks the summit of his upward career, the 
final stage of his successive earthly transmigrations. This 
story, which we shall presently relate at length, was told 
by him, after he had become a Buddha, to a great gather- 
ing of his friends and relatives, in the famous banyan 
grove of his native city. Showers of rain fell from heaven, 
miraculously bathing his holy body, but leaving untouched 
the throng of people around him. Seven times he appealed 
to heaven and earth to bear him witness as to the truth 
of his narrative, and seven times was an answer given in 
the voice of the thunder and the quaking of the earth. 

Siamese tradition goes on to say that after Buddha's 
death, a holy ascetic ascended to one of the heavens, 
where he met the Buddha who is next to descend and 
bless this earth with his teachings. The future Buddha 
held a long conversation with the earthly visitor in which 


he told him, that if the people wished for happiness and 
prosperity, they must unceasingly perform all the prescribed 
ceremonies according to the orthodox ritual, and, above all, 
they must not forget to annually recite the story of 
'*The Great Birth." 

At one time, in Siam, Pegu, and Cambodia, it was the 
imiversal custom at the end of the rainy season, to gather 
in private dwellings or temple halls to listen to the reading 
or recital of the thousand stanzas of the poem which tells 
the story. The annual celebration is now chiefly a state 
ceremony performed in special places. In the olden days, 
offerings were made for the decoration of the halls in 
which the recital was to be held, and this custom still 
continues in a smaller degfree. The general celebration 
that formerly took place degenerated at last into a kind 
of theatrical performance, and was accompanied by pan- 
tomime and song. New versions were given; the rhythm 
of the original poem was altered; and temple vied with 
temple, and house with house, in the introduction of 
novelties that would attract large audiences. The late king 
was a profound scholar and a devout believer in the pure 
truths and ritual of his religion, and not a nominal Bud- 
dhist like the majority of his subjects, and he looked upon 
these theatrical recitals with their accompanying buffoonery 
and merriment as being nothing less than a desecration of 
the famous story, and a burlesque of the life of him whose 
career they were intended to honour. When he left the 
cloister for the throne he sternly denounced the exhibition 


in a decree that is remarkable for its reasonableness and 
its forceful expressions. He even went so far as to tell a 
story, evidently of his own composition, the moral of which 
was that, as far as any religious merit was concerned, the 
money spent in preparing for the recitals would be better 
spent in burning dead dogs* carcases. His strong expres- 
sions of disfavour and disgust have had the desired effect, 
and the story is now recited in a decent and becoming 

The poem, as now recited, contains thirteen cantos and 
one thousand stanzas, and was written by one of the 
Siamese kings. It had been prophesied that the holy 
Buddhist scriptures would ultimately all be lost, and that 
the Vessantara Jataka,^being the most valuable, would be 
the first to disappear. When the scriptures have all been 
lost, and man has forgotten the meaning of righteousness, 
a new Buddha will be born upon earth to teach once 
more the principles of morality and truth. The "Pious" 
king who reigned in Siam from 1602 to 1628, is known as 
a priest celebrated alike for his piety and his learning, 
and as a king famous for his justice and mercy. He left 
the temple for the throne, but resigned in favour of his 
nephew and again returned to the seclusion of the hermit's 
cell. The prophecy as to the loss of the Jataka deeply 
affected him, and in order to prevent so great a calamity 
befalling his people he decided to write it in the form of 
a poem that it might be handed down fi-om generation to 
generation. This poem is the gem of Siamese classics, a 


model of literary style and treatment. King ** Pious ** was 
the first of the royal poets of Siam, but since his day it 
has been the fashion for the sovereign to write poetical 
compositions. Both the present king and his father are 
well known in the country as poets and scholars. The late 
king was probably the greatest scholar Siam ever had, so 
that he enjoyed a double distinction never possessed by 
any of the monarchs of more civilised lands. 

And now for the old king's rendering of the Vessantara 

In ages long since past, the god Indra called into his 
presence the beautiful daughter of one of the Devas. He 
asked her to consent to be re-born into the world of 
mcked, warring men that she might enjoy the supreme 
honour and happiness of becoming the mother of the 
future Buddha. The beautiful spirit maiden was not al- 
together unwilling to become the recipient of the honour 
offered her, but before finally consenting, she knelt before 
the throne of Indra to beg of him ten boons, of such a 
character that they should preserve her from unhappiness 
or trouble when she left the regions of heavenly bliss to 
descend to the realms of earthly woe. She requested that 
she should be bom as one of the highest caste, and that 
when she was old enough she should be wedded to the 
powerful monarch Sivi. Not forgetting the personal attrac- 
tions so desirable in an Oriental queen who wishes for 
long to retain her husband's affections, she asked for eyes 
that should be soft and mild like those of the gazelle, and 


for lashes whose graceful velvety fringe should be the 
envy of her rivals and the delight of her husband. Her 
name was not to be changed from that she had borne, 
in the gardens of heaven where her graceful figure and 
handsome face had earned for her the name of "blossom." 
She also stipulated that she should not experience any of 
the pains of child-birth, nor at any time suffer any deform- 
ation of her slender form. Her youthful appearance was 
to be preserved for ever from the ruthless hand of time, 
her complexion and skin to be soft and delicate beyond 
comparison with those of any earthly rival, and while her 
beauty enchained the minds of men, she was to win the 
hearts of all by being allowed to liberate all the prisoners 
in the land. Her final request included all she had already 
asked for, and many more besides; for, in a spirit that is 
delightfully feminine, she asked that when on earth, all 
her wishes should ever be promptly and completely satis- 
fied. Indra with god-like benevolence granted all her boons, 
even the last 

In due time she was bom on earth, and afterwards 
wedded to King Sivi. She gave birth to an infant son, the 
future Buddha in earthly form, who was named by his 
parents Vessantara. The child gave evidences of his wonder- 
ful character by speaking immediately after he was born, 
and later by his indifference to all earthly pleasures. Neither 
toys nor jewels were valued by him, and he lived the life 
of a retired ascetic until he was twenty years old. His 
father then desired him to marry, and persuaded him to seek 


for his wife, a princess called Maddi, who was famed for her 
great beauty. An embassy was sent to the maiden's father 
to ask for her hand, and as he willingly assented to the alli- 
ance, the princess returned with the ambassadors to be mar- 
ried without any delay to the hermit-like prince, Vessantara. 
His married life was one of great happiness. He was 
sincerely attached to his wife and to his son and daughter, 
but he never forsook his ascetic manner of living. His bene- 
volence was a household word, and gained for him troops 
of friends, until he made a gift of more than ordinary 
value to a neighbouring state, and caused thereby a great 
popular uproar. His father possessed an elephant whose 
chief value lay in its miraculous power of calling down 
rain from the skies in times of drought. Now, the people 
of a province near to his father's country, were suffering 
from want of water, and they sent to Vessantara to ask 
if he would lend them the rain-produdng elephant, knowing 
quite well that he never refused to g^ve to anyone what 
was asked of him. He granted their request mthout any 
hesitation, and told them that they might keep the animal 
as a present from himself. The ambassadors returned, taking 
home the beast in triumph; but when the inhabitants of 
Vijaya knew what had happened they burst into angry 
accusations against their benevolent prince. They complained 
also that the animal was not his to give, but was llie 
property of the nation. The king was not less angry than 
his subjects, and ordered his son to leave the capital at 
once, and live for the rest of his life m exile. The prince. 


in defending his action, said that the elephant was his and 
had been given to him by its mother at the time of his 
birth, as a birthday present. To the father, who was un- 
acquainted with his son's destiny and character, this seemed 
the most intolerable rubbish, and made him exceedingly angry. 

Maddi, like a faithful wife, sought to mollify the anger 
of her father-in-law, and implored forgiveness for her husband, 
but the king's wrath was too great to be appeased by her 
tearful entreaties. Then Vessantara gave away the greater 
part of his property, preparatory to his departing into 
banishment. He distributed one hundred elephants, one 
hundred ponies, one hundred vehicles of different kinds, 
one hundred male slaves, one hundred female slaves, one 
hundred catties* of gold and one hundred catties of silver. 
He entreated his wife to remain behind and take care of 
his two children, but she resolutely refused to leave him 
in his trouble, and taking the children with them, they 
departed in his chariot As they drove out of the city they 
scattered all the money they had, amongst the crowds of 
people who had collected to see the banished prince leaving 
his native city. 

On their journey they met two Brahmins, who recognised 
the prince and asked for his horses. He at once granted 
their request, and prepared to proceed on foot; but two 
Devas descended from heaven in the form of golden stags 
and harnessed themselves to the chariot. A little later they 
were met by another Brahmin, who asked for both chariot 

* A Siamese '^chang*' or ^ catty" is equal to about 2*/, lbs. avoirdupois. 


and steeds. Vessantara and Maddi dismounted and left 
the carriage to the stranger. The stags immediately dis- 
appeared, to the great astonishment of him who had begged 
for them. The wedded pair, carrying their children with 
them, pursued their way on foot, going in the direction of 
a distant and lonely mountain, where they proposed living 
the life of the hermits. 

The road to the mountain passed through the country 
where Maddi 's father reigned. He heard of their arrival 
in his territory and at once set out to meet them. He 
besought them to stay in his kingdom, offered them a 
residence near his own palace, and did all he could to 
persuade them to change their purpose. But they refused 
all his offers, saying that they were fully determined to live 
as hermits in the lonely jungle. At his earnest request they 
stayed with him seven days, but left him at the end of 
that time to continue their journey to the far-off mountain. 

They had to pass through perilous places, and were 
exposed to many dangers from men and beasts. A hunter 
was sent to guard them during this part of the journey. 
Indra, ever watchful, saw all that was happening, and 
commissioned one of his celestial architects to go at once 
to the mountain and prepare two bowers for the reception 
of the wandering exiles. 

At this time there was living in another part of the 
country, an aged Brahmin who was wedded to a young 
but ambitious wife. She had heard of Vessantara's gifts, 
the story of the elephants and the chariot, and of his 


numerous acts of benevolence, and felt that it would be 
an easy matter to trade upon his good nature and obtain 
some valuable gift for herself. So she asked her aged 
husband to go and ask Vessantara for his two children. 
He refused for a long time, but finally yielded to her 
entreaties, and set off to find the whereabouts of the generous 
prince that he might make known his wife's request. The 
guardian hunter saw him approaching, and levelled his bow 
at him, but the Brahmin said that he was a favourite of 
the prince, and had often received wise counsel from him, 
and that h& only sought the exile in order to befriend 
him, and carry to him the messages of old friends. The 
hunter was deceived, and allowed the Brahmin to pass on 
his way. 

Then the Brahmin arrived at a hut where lived a holy 
ascetic, to whom he addressed himself, enquiring for the 
way to Vessantara's residence. The hermit believing the 
man to be some greedy creature about to prefer a vexa- 
tious request, expressed his disgust and anger in very 
strong language. But the Brahmin, unaffected by the scornful 
denunciations he had listened to, again professed a desire 
to befriend the exiled prince. So sincere did his protest- 
ations appear, that the hermit gave him the required 

Following the path pointed out to him, he at length 
reached Vessantara's bower, and presenting himself in the 
disguise of a mendicant, asked the prince to give him his 
two children. Their mother was absent at the time^ as she 


had not returned from gathering fruit and herbs in the 
jungle. The prince was grieved when he heard the request, 
but he was fully aware that it was only by acts of great self- 
sacrifice that he could perfect his nature and attain the 
goal for which he was striving, so without much hesitation, 
he handed over his little son and daughter to the care of 
the beggar. His temper was sorely tried when he saw the 
mendicant tie their tiny hands fast behind their backs as 
though they were common slaves, and drag them roughly 
over the rough and thorny pathway. The tender-hearted 
parent suffered agonies of pain as he witnessed this cruel 
treatment of his loved ones, but by keeping his mind 
fixed on his future he managed to control any outward 
expressions of grief and anger. At some little distance 
from the bower, the Brahmin stumbled and fell to the 
ground. The children seeing an opportunity to escape 
from their brutal master, promptly fled and hid themselves 
in a lotus pond. The Brahmin returned to Vessantara, 
and angrily complained of the behaviour of the runaways, 
and upbraided the father with having deceived and tricked 
him. The prince, making no answer to the false rebukes, 
silently went out to look for his little ones. He saw their 
footprints in the ground, followed the direction they indicated, 
and soon discovered his son. In answer to his voice, the 
daughter also came out of her hiding-place, and there, by 
the side of the pond, the two children knelt down and 
embraced the feet of their father. Tears that sparkled 
like gems in the sunlight, fell from the eyes of the sorrow- 


fill three. The father spoke tenderly to his weeping children 
and told them of his great grief for their suffering, but 
that it was necessary for his and their future happiness. 
He tried to show them that if their love for him was 
sincere, they would go away with the mendicant cheerfully 
and willingly, for by so doing they would ultimately help 
in his attainment of perfect bliss. The boy acquiesced, 
but the little girl's heart was full of anger, and the burning 
tears ran heavily down her sorrow-stricken face. Once 
more they were delivered to the beggar, and again was 
their father's temper sorely tried, for their new master at 
once gave them both a sound thrashing before his eyes, 
as a punishment for what he termed their bad behaviour. 
While all this was happening, an event had occurred in 
the forest to prevent the return of Maddi before the children 
had gone away. For Indra foresaw that she might possibly 
by her tears and entreaties, hinder her husband's progress 
towards that goal of perfect benevolence which was to 
crown and complete his earthly career. So he arranged 
that on her homeward way, she should meet three animals, 
a lion, a tiger, and a leopard. They did her no harm, but 
simply prevented her from going forward. After many 
attempts to escape, she fell upon her knees and implored 
them to allow her to pass. Her husband's great act of 
renunciation having by this time been fully accomplished, 
the three beasts, who were three Devas in disguise, no 
longer hindered her progress, but departed into the jungle. 
It was long after midnight when she returned to her home, 


and the first thing her motherly eyes detected was the 
absence of her little ones. She turned to her husband, in 
whose face shone a heavenly glow of happiness not 
unmixed with sadness, and enquired of him what had 
become of the children. But to all her questions he 
answered nothing. Then, knowing the generous nature of 
his heart, and seeing the sadly kind expression on his 
face, she guessed what had happened, and, overcome with 
the weight of her great misfortune, she burst into tears and 
fell in a swoon upon the ground. Her husband tended her 
gently, and when she had recovered consciousness, he told 
her all that had happened, and besought her with pleading 
and argument to agree to the act in which she had as 
yet had no part. Deeply impressed with his earnestness 
and dimly conscious that there was more in the matter 
than she could realise, she acquiesced in what he had done. 
Now Indra saw that there was but one thing left to 
Vessantara which he could give away, and that was his 
wife Maddi. And the god remembered that if the prince 
should give away his wife, there would be no one left to 
tend and care for him in that solitary place. To prevent 
Vessantara being left absolutely alone, Indra himself descend- 
ed to earth in the form of an old Brahmin and stood before 
the bower. The prince saw him there, and at once realised 
that he had now an opportunity of completing his many 
acts of self-sacrifice by bestowing his wife upon the stranger. 
He asked the Brahmin again and again if there was any« 
thing he desired, and the Brahmin at length asked for the 


princess Maddi. With mingled joy and grief the parted with 
his long-loved and faithful help-meet, who had suffered much 
for his sake. The sorrow he felt at parting with the last 
earthly possession he dearly loved, was almost drowned in 
the thought that this was the last act in the long drama 
he had played through many generations. Great was his 
surprise and delight when the disguised Indra returned his 
wife to him, telling him to keep her in trust. The apparent 
Brahmin promised to return for her at some future time, 
and departed, leaving the loving pair to wonder as to his 

The old mendicant who had obtained possession of the 
children, intended to take them home to become the slaves 
of his greedy wife. But he lost his way in the trackless 
forests, and by mistake wandered into the city of Vessan- 
tara's father. The king was seated in a pavilion on the 
palace wall, and as the mendicant slowly wended his way 
past the royal residence, the observant monarch saw and 
recognised his two grandchildren. He sent for them, and from 
the boy's lips learned their story. The boy also told him 
the amounts that had been fixed by their father as the 
price of their redemption, and these amounts the king at 
once paid over to the Brahmin, and so liberated his grand- 
children. The money that the Brahmin received was of 
little use to him, for he died shortly afterwards, leaving no 
heirs to inherit his wealth. When the children had told 
their grandfather the story of their father's life and his 
lonely wanderings in the dangerous jungle, some feeling of 


pity and remorse took possession of the king, and he 
determined to have his son back again. He went to the 
distant forest, accompanied by the queen, his two newly 
found grandchildren and many soldiers. 

Great rejoicing attended the meeting of the father and 
son who had been so long separated. Vessantara in answer 
to the queen's entreaties promised to return home. On his 
return to his native city a great festival was held, the people 
thronged to see their long-lost prince once more^ alms were 
distributed in great quantities, and the period of self denial 
and renunciation was brought to a close. All those to whom 
Vessantara had previously given his valuable property 
returned it to him, asking for his blessing and forgiveness. 

Those who are interested in the after histories of these 
people may care to know that Vessantara appeared upon 
earth as Gautama Buddha, that Maddi was re-born as his 
wife Yashodra, and that his son was given to him again 
as Rahula. His daughter, however, did not become a mem- 
ber of his family in the next life upon earth, for when 
she was forced to follow the cruel old Brahmin, she swore 
in her heart that she would never again be re-born as the 
daughter of such an unjust and unloving father. 

Thus ends the story of " The Great Birth " according to 
the version of the ** pious ** king of Siam. With the excep- 
tion of the public state recital of the poem, it is now only 
recited in connection with the novitiate of the eldest sons 
of rich parents. The poor no longer ask their friends to 
visit their houses to listen to the thousand stanzas. The 


rich endeavour to reproduce as far as possible the circum- 
stances of the original recital. The novice who has retired 
to the temple and resigned for the time being all his 
earthly possessions, represents Vessantara. And as Buddha 
told the tale to a multitude of friends and relations in his 
native city, so the novice returns from the temple to his 
own home to chant the numerous stanzas in the midst of 
his acquaintances. The honour of thus repeating the old 
story belongs now to the eldest son, except in the case 
of children of royal birth, for each of whom a public 
recital is held. As the novice has not had time to learn 
the whole poem, he only delivers the first few lines, the 
rest being repeated by monks of longer standing, who have 
it all by heart. At the conclusion of the ceremony, offer- 
ings of food and robes are ostentatiously distributed to 
those priests who have given their services. 

The preaching of the story of the Great Birth during 
the novitiate of the late Crown Prince of Siam, was the 
occasion of great public rejoicing. The offerings were more 
numerous and varied than usual, and were arranged in a 
novel manner in front of the palace. A huge junk was 
erected on the grass, and its sides were totally covered 
with boxes of cigars, boxes of sardines, and tinned provi- 
sions. The cabins and hold were filled mth eatables, and 
when the ''preaching" festivities were ended, the whole 
vessel was broken up, and its contents distributed amongst 
the poor and the hospitals. 




The Thot Katin. The Thot Katin ceremonies are not 
nearly so old as those described in the preceding chapter. 
They are said to have been first established as purely 
state ceremonies by one of the Siamese kings, called Somdet 
Pra Luang, who reigned over Northern Siam about seven 
hundred years ago. He was a very popular monarch, and 
as powerful as he was popular. Whatever he ordered to 
he done in his own provinces in the north of the country, 
was always carried out to the letter, and the ceremonies 
he instituted have extended and developed till they are 
now universally celebrated all over the kingdom. 

In the days when the Buddhist priesthood lived a purely 
ascetic life, according to the ideal of their great teacher, 
long before the days even of Pra Luang himself, there was 
one branch of the monastic order which was far more given 
to practising self-denial and mortification than any of the 
rest of the brotherhood. And this sect of holy monks 
vowed a solemn vow that they would never wear any 
clothes that were directly or indirectly presented to them. 
They vowed that their robes should only be made of cloth 


that had no owners, such as the winding-sheets that had 
enshrouded the bodies of the dead, the clothes that had been 
cast away because they had been worn by persons suffering 
from infectious diseases, or the garments that had been discard- 
ed by their owners as being too ragged or filthy to be used 
any longer. Garments of this description were the only ones 
they would wear, and all presents were steadily refiised. 
At the end of the rainy season, when the period of the 
forced retirement in the monasteries was finished, they went 
in little parties of three and four to the cemeteries, to the 
places where the bodies of the dead were burned, and to 
all the spots where dust, dirt, refuse, and rubbish had been 
deposited. There they gathered up every scrap and rem- 
nant of cloth, to patch them carefully together to make tiieir 
garments for the coming year. Many people saw them 
frequently groping about in these unhealthy, unfrequented 
localities, and asked them wonderingly, "What are you 
doing there? What are you looking for?" And to all 
enquiries the priests made none other answer save "We 
seek for ownerless clothes." Then the people, partly out 
of a feeling of pity and partly out of a desire to make 
merit, went to their homes and brought all the pieces of 
cptton, linen, or woollen cloth they could spare, and gene- 
rously offered them as gifts to the ragged priests. But the 
gifts were always firmly refused, and the people returned 
to their homes, wondering why this one particular order of 
mendicant brethren would not accept their voluntary offerings. 
Some of the more inquisitive of those whose gifts had 


been refused, stealthily followed the priests from place to 
place, and, unseen themselves, observed all they did. And 
they saw the worthy monks groping in heaps of refuse 
and gathering fragments of cloth, taking soiled torn rags 
from the branches of trees, and collecting the scraps of 
linen that were blown hither and thither by the wind in 
the grave-yards, where were buried the uncremated, those 
who had died of small-pox, cholera, and other dangerous 
and infectious diseases. When they had seen all this, tfaey 
returned home and told their brethren, and all wondered 
greatly, but no one understood. Then those people who 
reverenced the priests, but whose minds held many super- 
stitious notions, invented a theory which seemed to explain 
all the facts that had been observed, and which afterwards 
found wide acceptation amongst the people. They said that 
these wandering, self-denying, rag-hunting monks were of 
the holiest of the holy, that they had power to see into 
the realms of heaven and of hell, and that their chief aim 
and purpose in this life was to promote the future happi- 
ness of men and animals. When these priests clad them- 
selves in the garments of one who had died, the deceased 
ascended into heaven. Therefore, the monks, ever living 
according to the faith they held, and in pursuance of their 
great desire to give future bliss to those who had departed, 
wore not the valuable gifts of the living, but the cast-off 
garments of the dead. 

When this theory had been heard and accepted by 
devout or superstitious people, the custom arose of wrap- 



ping many extra cloths round the body of a dead person, 
and requesting the priests to remove them from the corpse 
and carry them away to the temples. This custom still 
prevails in many parts of the coimtry amongst people who 
hope in this way to secure the safe and speedy entrance 
of their deceased friends and relatives into the realms of 
indescribable felicity. The late king, in his sincere desire 
to purify the religious beliefs of his credulous subjects, 
endeavoured to point out to them that there was nothing 
whatever in the original scriptural texts to warrant this 
wide-spread faith, and that it was purely a superstition 
invented and taught by the laity. He also pointed out the 
true interpretation of the priests' actions — namely, their 
desire to live a thoroughly ascetic life that they might 
purify their minds and be worthy of their master. But 
the people have refused to accept this simple explanation 
either from their ruler or from their more enlightened 
ecclesiastical teachers, and even accuse those priests who 
exhibit any reluctance to comply with their requests, of 
being wanting in pity and gentleness. So they continue 
to wrap unnecessary cloths round the bodies of the dead, 
that the priests may remove them and wear them, and 
so ensure the happiness of the dead. There have been 
also many priests of worldly disposition who have secretly 
encouraged the custom, as it is a source of considerable 
worldly profit to themselves. 

A more reasonable but still unorthodox creed has found 
many followers. According to some, the priests sought for 


the clothes that had shrouded people who had died of 
infectious diseases, not out of pity for the dead, but out of 
consideration for the living. For by removing these cloths 
they effectually prevented them from being blown amongst 
the homes of men, and so spreading the disease. They thus 
removed a possible disaster. This idea degenerated into 
the belief that by presenting the priests with robes, im- 
pending dangers would be rendered ineffectual to the giver, 
and led to the custom of throwing garments for the use of 
the priests in front of the temples. This was usually done 
at the end of the rainy season, which, according to the old 
custom of counting time, was the end of the year. The 
donors thought they would in this way certainly secure pros- 
perity for themselves and families during the ensuing months. 
As a result of this latter belief it became the custom to 
present robes to the priests in October and November, when 
the wet months were drawing to a close. King Pra Luang 
in his palace at Ayuthia, considered the custom, pronounced 
it good, and established it as part of the ordinary worship 
of the devout When the proper season arrived, he set out 
himself to distribute robes to the inmates of the royal temple. 
Each temple provided a quantity of fireworks, and appointed 
responsible officers to superintend their pyrotechnical dis- 
plays. In front of the landing of the king's palace, were 
gathered together numerous boats laden with baskets of 
food and yellow cloth. In the centre of each basket a 
stout branch was fixed, and from the branches lighted 
lanterns were suspended. At the bottom of every lantern 


trailed a strip of yellow silk, symbolical of the scraps that 
the old monks sought in desolate places. The boats also 
contained presents of many descriptions given by the king, 
the government officials, and the common people according 
to their wealth or their faith. 

In the evening, as soon as it was dark, the king came 
down to the bank of the river to examine the boats and 
their contents. He descended into his state barge, attended 
by his chief officers, and headed a long procession, accom- 
panied by the chief ladies of the palace, and by crowds 
of people who had been drawn to the place by the pros- 
pect of seeing the fireworks. The boats, crowded by natives, 
drew after them the other boats containing the baskets of 
food and the piles of robes. Wherever the king stopped, 
presents of eatables and priestly garments were distributed 
to the brethren who resided in the temple, and fireworks 
were let off in honour of the sovereign's arrival, and as a 
mark of gratitude for his benevolence. At a later date, 
when temples became multiplied to such an extent that 
the Idng was unable to personally visit them all, he 
entrusted the distribution of the presents to his relatives, 
and officials of high rank. 

The custom of presenting robes at the end of the rainy 
season is now universally observed throughout the whole 
kingdom, and is looked upon as an excellent way of making 
merit, though, in common with all the other religious 
observances of the country, its primary meaning and origin 
are unknown to most of the worshippers 


The festival is known as the ''Thot Katin"»- acnd is 
celebrated with great rejoicing and merriment. "Katin", 
or "Kratin", is derived from the Pali word, "Katina", and 
means "severe" or "difficult". The term is applied to 
three separate things. It means a pattern of a priest's robe 
made of patchwork; it is the name of the robe itself, which 
must be made of raw cotton and completed in a single 
day and night — a difficult task; and it also denotes the 
merit which the maker will receive as a reward for his 
meritorious exertions. The other word, "Thot", means 
"to lay down", so that the whole expression used as the 
name of the ceremony of the presentation of the priestly vest- 
ments, means "Laying down robes made after the Katina 
pattern ", on the floor or on a table, for the priests to take up. 

The holidays last during the month of October, and are 
celebrated with processions on land and water. The water 
processions in Bangkok are singularly attractive on account 
of the number of people who take part in them, and the. 
variety of costume, and display of oarmanship which they 
then exhibit. All day long, lines of canoes, gondolas, and 
gilded barges carry the worshippers and their offerings to 
the many temples in the city. The holiday attire is unusually 
brilliant, and as the numerous colours flash by in the swiftly 
gliding boats, one begins to wonder if there are any tints or 
shades of colour that may not be seen on the Menam. After 
prostrating themselves before the idol, and presenting their 
gifts to the priests, the people hold a great aquatic carnivaL 

The following account of this ancient ceremony is quoted 



from "The Bangkok Directory" and is presumably a trans- 
lation of a native composition. 

" All the temples in Bangkok and its suburbs, which have 
been made by or dedicated to the king, expect a splendid 
visit from him annually, between the middle of the eleventh 
and twelfth moons. This is the season appointed by the 
most ancient and sacred custom for the priests to seek 
their apparel for the year ensuing. In conformity with this 
custom, the King, taking a princely offering of priests' 
robes with him, visits these temples. 

"The ceremony is called ^Thot Katin', which means 
to lay down the robes sewed up in patches according to a 
given pattern, for the priests to take up. The pattern is 
the 'Katin', which in ancient times the priests of Buddha 
used in cutting their cloth into patches to be sewed together 
to make their outer and inner robes. The cloth was cut 
with a knife because it would be wicked to tear it. In olden 
time, in Buddha's day, the custom was for the priests to go 
out themselves to seek old cast-off clothing, and the best 
of these they would patch together to form the three kinds 
of priestly robes required. This was one conspicuous mode 
of self-mortification. But that mendicant custom has gradually 
given place to the present one of making the garments of 
new cloth dyed yellow; and prepared by the princely 
donations of thousands of the affluent, and the more 
humble contributions of the multitudes of the poor. 
They begin to make preparations for this season months 
before the time, until in Bangkok alone, there are many 


thousands of priests' suits in readiness by the middle of 
October for distribution at the temples. The cloth is d3red 
yellow for the purpose, as tradition says, of imitating some- 
what the custom of Buddha and his early followers, who 
preferred a dingy yellow colour for their robes, for the express 
purpose of making themselves odious in the eyes of the 
world, that there might be no door of temptation open to 
them to be conformed to the world. In those days it 
was the custom of robbers and murderers in Hindustan, 
where Buddhism began its course, to wear red and yellow 
clothing as an appropriate badge of their profession. The 
better classes of the world regarded them with horror, 
and fled from them. Now, Gautama Buddha, when a 
prince, had a host of ardent friends who urged him not 
to abdicate his throne. But he was full set to do it; and 
this was the mode he took to cut himself off from their 
sympathy. By assuming the robber's garb, he would rid 
himself of such ruinous tempters, and yet secure another 
class of admirers, who would delight to walk with him in 
the road to Nirvana, to which his whole heart and soul 
was devoted. 

''Although there are so many hundreds of Buddhist 
temples in Siam, none are omitted from this annual visit- 
ation. The royal temples are visited by the king, or by 
some prince or nobleman of high rank, who goes in the 
king's name. Outside the capital, these royal temples are 
always visited by deputies of His Majesty, bearing priests' 
robes and other things provided by the king. 


"When His Majesty goes in person, he does so with 
great pomp and splendour, whether by land or water. If 
by water the finest state barges are displayed. There are 
some ten or more of these splendid boats, each with some 
august name attached, to distinguish it from the others. 
These barges are called 'royal throne boats'. Only one 
appears in the royal procession at a time. They are 
from one hundred and fifty to one hundred and eighty 
feet in leng^th, and from six to eight feet wide. They 
gradually become narrower fore and aft, and taper upwards. 
Hanging from the stem and stern are two lai^e white 
tassels made of the hair of the Cashmere goat, and 
between them floats a royal banner. A little abaft of 
midships there is a splendid canopy about twelve feet 
long, having the ridge curving downward at each end, 
and covered with cloth of gold, and the sides tastefully 
hung with curtains of the same costly material. Within 
is a throne, suited to this little floating palace. The bows 
of die barges to convey the priestly robes and other gifts, 
are formed into heads of hideous dragons, or imaginary 
sea-monsters, with glaring eyes and horrid teeth and horns. 
The whole boat is richly carved and gilded to represent 
scales, often inlaid with pearl and other precious things, 
while the stern forms an immense tail, curving upwards 
to the height of twelve or fifteen feet. It is m this kind 
of barge that the kmg always rides. When he would 
appeal- in his greatest glory, he is seen seated on this, his 
floating throne, wearing a gold-embroidered coat, and 


golden shoes. He has generally the Crown Prince with 
him, and sometimes other royal children follow him in a 
barge of second rank, being all beautifully attired. We 
must not forget to mention the huge jewelled fan, the 
royal umbrellas, white and yellow, which have their 
appropriate places in the dragon bai^e, and help to 
distinguish it from all there in the imposing pageant. The 
dragon barges are propelled by sixty or seventy paddlers, 
who have been trained daily for a jfiiU month for that 
express service. They have been taught to paddle in 
unison, all striking the water at the same moment, and 
all raising the blades of their paddles above their heads, 
at an equal height These royal boatmen, by their public 
training on the river, become a pattern for all others in 
the procession. 

"Preceding the King's personal barge, there are usually 
from forty to sixty royal guard-boats, over one hundred 
feet long, and from five to six feet wide, going in pairs. 
They are modelled after the King's own boat, but smaller, 
and the canopy is made of whitish leaves resembling the 
palm leaf, sewed together, and ornamented with crimson 
cloth bordered with yellow. Under the bow and stem of 
these boats, float a pair of long grey tassels, made of the 
fibres of pine-apple leaves, and between each of these 
hangs a golden banner. They have fifty or more paddlers, 
and two men in each boat beat time with a long pole 
decorated with white tassels, which they lift up and strike 
down end-wise on the deck of the boat 


" In the rear of the King's barge come princes, nobles, 
officers, and multitudes of still lower grades, who all follow 
the King to the temple in boats of various fashions, down 
to the simple one-oared skiff with its single half-naked 
occupant Each prince and nobleman sits proudly under 
his own canopy, attired in his best court robes, having 
duly arranged about him gold or silver water-pot and tea- 
pot, and betel and cigar boxes, all of which have been 
given to him by the King, as insignia of his rank and 

'*The boatmen have various coloured liveries. Those of 
the King's dragon barge and its mate usually wear red 
jackets and caps. On the guard-boats we see many colours ; 
some have red jackets and leather caps of ancient style; 
in others the men have only short pants, and narrow fillets 
of palm-leaf about their heads. Brass bands follow in the 
procession, and companies of native men-o'-war's men, who 
close up the moving panorama. 

'< The floating and other houses along the line of the 
King's advance have each prepared a little table or altar, 
upon which they display the choicest fruits and flowers, 
wax candles, pictures, and other ornaments, as marks of 
respect to their sovereign. The native and foreign shipping 
display their colours. The small craft on the river and 
canals where he is to come, clear out for the time, to make 
a wide and open passage for him. Formerly none were 
allowed to watch the royal procession, except from behind 
closed doors or windows, but now all such restrictions are 


withdrawn, and the people enjoy the sight of their beloved 
King, and take part in the general rejoicings. 

"The priests* garments being neatly folded and put up 
into bundles of a suit each, are borne with the King in 
the royal throne barge. When he arrives at the landing 
of a temple, he remains seated until several suits of the 
yellow robes have been carried up to the door and put in 
care of an official, to await the approach of His Majesty, 
and until other officers of state and a company of infantry, 
together with the musicians, have had time to leave their 
boats and place themselves in position for receiving him. 
The handrails of the steps which the King ascends are 
wound with white cotton cloth, and the flagged path from 
the landing to the temple is covered with grass matting 
exclusively for him to walk upon. When the King is in 
the act of ascending the steps of the landing, "Old Siam" 
blows her pipes and conch shells, and beats her drums; 
the military form in double line and present arms, and the 
brass band plays the national anthem. 

"Having reached the door of the *bote', the King 
takes one suit of the priests' robes, and bearing it in 
both hands, walks in and lays it on a table prepared 
for that purpose. On this table are five golden vases of 
flowers, five golden dishes of parched rice, tastefully arranged 
in the form of bouquets, five golden candlesticks with their 
candles, and five incense sticks. His Majesty first lights 
the candles and incense sticks. He then worships before 
the sacred shrine of Buddha, die sacred books, and the 


assembled priests. He next makes a request to the chief 

priest to renew his covenant to observe the five rules of 

the Buddhist religion. These are, first, that he will not 

take the life of any man or other sentient creature; second, 

that he will not oppress any man; third, that he will not 

take to wife any woman belonging to another, while there 

is the least unwillingness on the part of the woman, or of 

her parents or of her guardians, to the transaction ; fourth, 

that he will not lie, nor deal falsely with mankind, nor use 

abusive language; fifth, that he will not use intoxicating 

liquors as a beverage. When the King visits the temple, 

if it happens to be one of their four sacred days, their 

custom makes it necessary for him to promise to observe 

three other rules in addition to the above five; first, that 

he will not partake of any food after midday on any 

sacred day until the next morning after light has appeared ; 

second, that he will not on sacred days indulge in any 

theatrical or musical performances, nor in any way allow 

or cause his person to be perfumed; third, that he will 

not on such days sleep on a bed that is more than ten 

and a half inches high, nor use any mattress, and that he 

will deny himself as becometh a devout Buddhist. If the 

King is conscious of having transgressed any of these rules 

since he last renewed his obligations, he is supposed to 

confess his sins mentally before Buddha, and promise 

solemnly that he will earnestly endeavour to avoid such 

sins in the future. 

''His Majesty having renewed his obligations, then 



proceeds to make a formal presentation of his offerings to 
the priests of that temple, whereupon they respond in 
the Pali tongue, 'sidhu, sadhu' ('well, well'). The chief 
priest then addresses the fraternity as follows : ' This " Katin " 
robe has been given to us by his most illustrious majesty, 
the King, who, being endued with exceedingly great goodness 
and righteousness, has condescended to come hither himself 
and present these garments to us, a company of Buddhist 
priests, without designating any particular person by whom 
they shall be worn.' They then distribute the gifts amongst 
themselves, after which they bow down and worship 
Buddha, reciting a few Pali sentences. This distribution of 
garments is not always done in the presence of the King, 
but sometimes after he has left the temple. The late 
ICing Maha Mongkut made an innovation on this old 
custom, by bringing with him extm suits of yellow robes 
and giving them to certain priests who had distinguished 
themselves as Pali scholars. It is abo usual to make a few 
otiier gifts to the priests, of such things as they are apt 
to need, as bedding, boats, and table furniture, but these 
are not considered any part of the real ' katin.' 

''As the King is about to leave the temple, the priests 
pronounce a Pali blessing upon him, and he again worships 
Buddha, the sacred books, and the priests. Then rising, he 
walks out of the ' bote,' and descends to the royal bai^e, 
with the same ceremonies as when he ascended. He visits 
several temples during each day, and spends some time in 
each one. The value of each priest's suit which the King 


offers, is supposed to be about ten Mexican dollars, and 
the aggregate value of the offerings he makes on these 
successive days is probably not less than ten thousand 
Mexican dollars." 

Song Kran. Song Kran is an angel who rises with the 
sun when he enters the sign Aries. The date of the holidays 
held and ceremonies performed under this title is ruled by 
the sun, and is not definitely fixed. But each successive 
year the court astrologers announce the event, and then 
for four days the celebrations take place. The King 
takes a state shower-bath, and invites the priests to 
assemble at the palace for prayers and breakfast. The laity 
have their own special religious services and their own 
amusements. They gamble and pray, go to the theatres 
and temples, feed the priests and feed themselves as they 
do at New Year. Buddha's image is bathed by the old 
women, who also sprinkle water over the elderly people 
and priests present, with the idea of calling down blessings 
on those who are bathed, as well as on themselves. As 
a general rule the ceremonies begin about the eleventh or 
twelfth day of April. 

Kan WiSAKllA Bucha. This is the name of the holidays 
connected with a very important day in the Buddhist 
calendar — namely, the day on which Buddha was born. 
According to the tradition, it is also the day on which he 
died, and the day on which he attained Nirvana. This 
anniversary day has developed into a three days' celebra- 
tion, of which the most noticeable feature is the extensive 


almsgiving that is then practised in imitation of Buddha's 
benevolent deeds. At night, illuminations on a small scale 
take place, but there is no great state function. 

Khauwasa is derived from the Sanskrit "Varasha", 
meaning "rain" or "year." The Wasa season lasts firom 
July 8th to October 4th, and has already been mentioned 
as the period of Buddhist Lent or confinement. The priests 
only, fast and do penance, and even for them there are no 
fixed rules, except that which forbids them to remain outside 
the temple enclosure between midnight and dawn. Several 
forms of self-mortification have been invented, such as 
spending the night in a cemetery, thinking of death ; sleeping 
in uncomfortable postures, and only eating once in twenty- 
four hours. But if the penitent gets tired of doing penance, 
he may give it up. He will still retain all the merit he 
has made by what he has already done, though of course 
the quantity to his credit is less than it would have been 
had he persevered to the end. 

The general ceremonies for the people begin at the end 
of the period of confinement. The food given to the priests 
at this time is a first-class investment, as it purchases one 
hundredfold its value in heavenly entertainments in the 
very next existence. Everyone therefore is very anxious 
to secure a hungry priest for his guest. 

KAVf Prasal The ground surrounding the different 
monasteries is always covered with sand, so that in wet 
weather the feet of the priests may not get covered with 
mud as they walk from their cells to the temple. Once 



each year fresh sand is brought and built up into little 
hills in the temple grounds ; hence the above name, ** Kaw " 
meaning "to build/' "pra" meaning "holy" and "sai" 
** sand." The building of these holy sand-hills is a substitute, 
amongst the poorer classes, for the more laborious and 
expensive way of making merit, involved in the erection 
of a prachadee. The sand is moulded as nearly as possi- 
ble in the form of the spiral relic mounds, and is ornamented 
with small flags. The sand is bought from the monastery, 
which thus obtains money for building purposes, or for the 
purchase of more sand for the courtyard. Small coins are 
placed in the holy hillocks, and these become the property 
of those who find them when the hillocks are demolished. 



LOY Krathong. The Loy Krathong festivals were estab- 
lished by King Pra Luang, the founder of the Thot 
Katin ceremonies, and they originally occurred in connection 
with them; but they have gradually become separated from 
them, and have now an independent existence of their own. 
Whereas the Katin ceremonies owe their origin to a super- 
stition propagated by worshippers of the Buddhist faith, the 
Loy Krathong festivities are an outgrowth of Brahminical 
worship. The old "wat" visitations, with the presentation 
of robes to the priests, originated, as we have seen, in a 
peculiar belief as to the actions of an ascetic priesthood, 
and were afterwards definitely estabished as annual occur- 
rences by the king. Their connection with the ceremony 
about to be described, was due to accidental circumstances 
that did not arise for several years after the initiation of 
the older festival. The later ceremonies which were connected 
primarily with the Katin, and which have now become a 
separate function, originated, according to the late king's 
account, in the following manner. 

In the reign of Somdet Pra Luang there lived a famous 


Brahmin who was noted in the capital, and in all the 
surrounding country, for his great wisdom. There was no 
branch of knowledge whose depths he had not fathomed. 
He could read the stars, cast horoscopes, foretell eclipses, 
and fulfil the duties of a weather prophet. He was well 
versed in the mysteries of the theory and practice of med- 
icine, and knew the names, habitats, and virtuous proper- 
ties of all plants that grew. As a theologian he could 
explain the origin of all things, and discourse upon the subtle 
doctrines of all the religions then known. He was an author- 
ity upon law, could tell what had been the customs of 
many people, and devise plans for firm and wise govern- 
ment. As a scholar of ancient practices he was unrivalled, 
and knew all the details of the growth and development 
of all religious and social usages. Such a man found great 
&vour in the eyes of the sovereign, who made use of the 
Brahmiii's great wisdom in the management of his subjects. 
He gave him many honours and appointed him to fill many 
important positions. Amongst many oflices that he held, 
two were given him on account of his unrivalled knowledge, 
namely, those of chief physician, and chief judge. 

This encyclopaedic philosopher had a young and graceful 
daughter whom he called Nobamas. And as became the 
child of so wise a father, she also was well skilled in 
many arts and sciences. Her beauty was the subject of 
every song, and her name was in everyone's mouth. The 
whole nation were enthusiastic in their praise of her, and 
so great were her charms and abilities that even her own 


sex regarded her not with envy, but were proud that one 
of their number should be distinguished. She was almost as 
learned as her father and was wont to discourse upon all 
subjects with great intelligence. She was a clever poetess, 
a skilful musician, and an artist of great power. And when 
the poets of the country had exhausted all their vocabulary in 
describing her beauty and her talents, they began to sing of the 
honours she ought to receive, and greatest of all these was the 
honour of becoming the wife of the king. One day the king 
listened to a group of musicians who were merrily singing, 
and the subject of their song was the wondrous Nobamas, fit 
only for the wife of the sovereign. The song scorned the idea 
of her wedding any one of less degree, and eulogised her 
to such an extent that the listening monarch's curiosity 
became very great He returned to his palace, and sought 
for the ladies of his household. He told them all he had 
heard, and enquired if any of them knew anything of this 
peerless creature. To the king's eager enquiries they return- 
ed answer that the song was true, but that no words could 
adequately describe the charms of the Brahmin maiden. 
The king could no longer restrain his desire to possess so 
fair a creature, and he sent the most elderly ladies of his 
retinue, according to the custom of the country, to ask her 
father for her hand. 

The ladies went, and their mission was entirely successful. 
The old counsellor who had received so many favours from 
his sovereign was glad to have an opportunity of showing 
his gratitude in this way, so he willingly presented his 



renowned daughter to his royal master. He sent her to 
the king, who ever afterwards treated her with great tender- 
ness and affection, and soon made her chief of the ladies 
in the palace. They both of them enjoyed the greatest 
happiness when in each other's company, and whenever 
Nobamas was not engaged in fulfilling her duties in her 
department of the palace, she held converse with the king, 
delighting him with her great wisdom and knowledge, and 
charming him 'with her compositions in music and poetry. 
Soon after their marriage there occurred a celebration 
of the Katin ceremonies, and the king desired the fair 
Nobamas to accompany him on his water procession. Now, 
although this beautiful wife had married a Buddhist king, 
she still remained true to her Brahmin faith, and worshipped 
her own idols and spirits according to the precepts her 
father had taught her in her early childhood. It was a 
Brahminical custom that, at the end of the year, all people 
should prepare suitable offerings to present to the genii of 
the river, in order to obtain pardon and the absolution of 
their sins. Towards the end of the year, when the people 
were getting ready to celebrate the Katin, Nobamas 
secretly prepared to perform her own religious rites^ and 
for this purpose she made a small boat-like structure, called 
a ''Krathong." This she formed out of plantain leaves, and 
loaded it with paddy husks to make it float in stable 
equilibrium. She stitched strips of plantain leaves together, 
and pinned them round the edge of the little boat by way 
of ornament. Over the ballast she spread smooth clean 


plantain leaves, and on this green leafy deck she placed 
a little cargo of betel-nut, sirih leaf, parched rice, and 
sweet-scented flowers. She took several fresh fruits of a fleshy 
character, such as the papaya and the pumpkin, and defUy 
carved them into representations of fruits, flowers, and 
animals, and piled them up in a conical arrangement in the 
centre. The artificial flowers she stained with the juices 
of other plants to make them resemble real blossoms. Here 
and there she fastened one of her own sketches or paintings, 
and finally finished the work by adorning it with storied 
umbrellas of paper, tiny flags, toy implements, tapers, and 
scented incense sticks. 

On the flrst evening of the Katin ceremony the boats 
were arranged in front of the palace landing, as usual, and 
the state barge with the glass throne was moored there, 
pending the arrival of the king. Suddenly everyone's atten- 
tion was attracted by a strange-looking object that was 
being floated to the royal landing. It was the Kratiiong 
that Nobamas had made. She intended to light the tapers and 
the incense sticks, and send the float adrift to bear her 
message to the spirits, at the same time that the rojral 
party should set out to visit the temples. But as soon as 
the Krathong was come to the landing, all the ladies, and 
the members of the royal family, who were assembled there 
to wait for the coming of the king, crowded round it, and 
begged to be allowed to examine it, so Nobamas had to 
explain the design and the meaning of this, her handiwork. 
So great was die interest exhibited by everyone in the 



pretty toy, that no one noticed the arrival of the king, 
and he seeing the crowd so noisy and so attracted, enquired 
what was the cause of their merriment and amusement. 
Someone told him that everyone was busily admiring a 
float that his beautiful consort had made. He then ordered 
the object to be brought to him that he might also sec 
and hear about it. When he saw it he could not find 
sufficient words to express his admiration of the skill that 
had designed and constructed it He requested to be 
allowed to keep it, and Nobamas knelt before him and 
presented him with the decorated krathong. He again 
praised the work, but more still did he praise her who 
had made it. But when he had examined it a little longer, 
he discovered its purpose, and said, "This is the offering 
of a lady of the Brahmin faith." And Nobamas answered 
him, saying, ** That is so, for I am a Brahmin, and hitherto 
Your Majesty has not interfered with my religious belief, 
so at this season of the year, I have made this little 
krathong with the intention of floating it down the river 
as an offering to the spirits of the water, as is right and 
proper for a maiden of the Brahmin faith to do." 

Pra Luang was a good Buddhist and a devout believer 
in the teachings of his own religion. Still, the krathong 
looked very pretty, and he had a great desire to light the 
incense sticks and the tapers and send it adrift as Nobamas 
had intended. But he was afraid of the opinions of the 
people. For if he should make this offering to the spirits 
and not to Buddha, he was afraid the people might upbraid 


him and accuse him of having abandoned his religion for 
that of his wife. But he could not resist the temptation 
to see what the krathong would look like when it was illumi- 
nated, so, not without some little misgiving, he lit the lights 
upon the leafy boat And still he was not satisfied, for 
he wanted to see it drifting away into the darkness, with 
the tapers reflecting their glittering light in the flowing 
waters. Therefore he cast about in his mind for some 
excuse to explain his actions, and presently he spoke in a 
loud voice that all around him, whether upon the landing- 
stage, the banks of the river^ or in the boats before him, 
might hear, and said, "To all the property, such as temples, 
pagodas, and spires that are dedicated to Buddha on the 
banks of this river; to all his sacred relics, such as his 
bones and hair, wherever they may be in the subterranean 
regions concealed from the eye, under the river, or in 
places which Buddha has pressed with his feet, when mov- 
ing in his might or in his natural state; to his footprints 
in this river, or in the ocean which receives the stream of 
this river, — to them I ofler this krathong and its contents 
as worthy of the great Buddha. To him and to the relics 
and to his property I reverently dedicate this krathong. 
And whatever merit I may obtain by this deed, that 
merit I do not appropriate for myself, but give to the 
genii, in whose honour the krathong was first made by 
Nobamas, for I too reverence the spirits she intended to 
honour." Having finished this speech in defence of his 
actions, and having satisfied his own conscience, he placed 



the brilliantly illuminated little float in the water, for the 
stream to carry away to the sea. 

But all these proceedings, though very complimentary 
to Nobamas herself, did not in any way realise her idea 
as to what was due to the water-spirits from one who was 
a Brahmin. As she had now no oflering, she at once set 
to work to make one. She hastily gathered fresh leaves 
and bound them together into a square, shallow box. She 
cut bits of banana stem to fasten to it, and in the middle 
she quickly stuck a few tapers and joss sticks, borrowed 
from the people round about her. Into the boat she cast 
anything she could And, lit the tapers, made her vows 
and resolves mentally, and cast the toy adrift to follow 
the one the king had already launched. The monarch 
saw it, and knew who had made it so quickly, for there 
was but one woman in the land who had the knowledge 
and the skill to construct a new krathong so easily. He 
was loud in his praise, and the people stirred by the 
example thus set them, took everything that they could 
find that would float, stuck lighted tapers and incense sticks 
in them, and put them in the water, till presently the river 
was all ablaze with twinkling lights, and the air was full 
of the joyful somid of merry laughter. 

The king was highly delighted with the sight, and order- 
ed that it should occur annually in honour of the wise and 
beautiful Nobamas. And he entreated the genii of the 
river to take possession of the hearts and minds of all his 
subjects at this season of the year, for ever and ever, aud 


compel them to hold a great festival, which he named 
" Khan Loi Phra Prathip Krathong." " Krathong," as previ- 
ously explained, means '' a little basket-like boat containing 
small flowers and other ofTerings suitable for the water- 
spirits;" "loi" means "to send adrift" or "to float," and 
"prathip" is derived from the Pali word "padipo", mean- 
ing "a lamp" or "taper." There are those in the country 
who say that all the descendants of those who witnessed 
the first ceremony, are slaves of Pra Luang, and that at 
the proper season their minds are forced to obey his 
wishes, and send adrift the taper-bearing floats. 

For seven hundred years the ceremony has existed, but 
its details have changed with each succeeding generation. 
A few years after its initiation, the king ceased his visit- 
ation to all temples that were not near at hand, and all 
the fireworks that used to be let off on his arrival were 
brought together to make a gorgeous display at the palace 
landing. The king sat on a throne to watch the general 
amusement, and then sent adrift one or more krathongs. 

Since the foundation of Bangkok the ceremonies of 
Thot Katin and Loy Krathong have branched off firom 
each other. The late king introduced several changes; 
for, whereas previously, all the floats were provided by 
his own officials at their private expense, those sent off 
by the king himself were made at his expense, and greatly 
reduced in number. The common people, of course, please 
themselves as to the number and value of the krathongs 
tney send adrift. 


At present the festival occurs twice each year; first, on 
the third, fourth, and fifth day of October, and again on 
the first, second and third of November. The people have 
various theories as to why they make offerings to the 
spirits of the water by means of illuminated krathongs 
and floating fireworks, though they all agree that it is a 
good way of making merit About midnight or early 
morning the king comes down to the royal landing in 
front of the palace, and pushes off a big krathong, whose 
tapers he has lit with his own hand. The royal children 
and princes follow suit As they float away into the dark- 
ness, they give the signal to the thousands of people who 
are waiting to do the same thing. Night is soon turned 
into day. Fireworks are thrown into the water, the bright 
little lights sail over the dancing waves, and the river is 
soon dotted all over as far as the eye can reach, with lights 
of many colours, that twinkle, fizz, or splutter for a long, 
long time. The krathongs take many shapes, and illuminated 
palaces, ships, rafts, lotuses, and boats ride on the river, 
carrying their little offerings of food and tobacco as a 
gracious gift to the "mother of the waters", amidst the 
blare of trumpets and the shouts of many voices. Away 
by the sea shore, the crested billows bear the same offerings 
out to sea, to be soon lost and drowned in the deep dark 

Eclipses. Whenever an eclipse occurs, the natives turn 
out of their houses and indulge in a very noisy demonstra- 
tion. Though their actions on these occasions cannot be 


described as strictly of a religious character, yet as most 
of the so-called religious ceremonies have been developed 
from superstitions, the superstition that forms the basis of 
the popular theory of eclipses may here be fitly given. 
The native astrologers are able to calculate the time of 
these astronomical phenomena, with considerable accuracy; 
but as they do not understand the use of logarithms, their 
methods are tedious and lengthy. When an eclipse occurs, 
the people beat drums and gongs, shout their loudest, let 
off fire-arms, and in fact make any and every noise they 
can think of. Some people say that a demon is eating up 
the moon, or the sun, as the case may be, and that only 
in this way can they frighten the monster away, and so 
prevent the loss of these brilliant luminaries. But there is 
another story quite as fantastic, which also attempts to 
account for a lunar eclipse. 

In times long ago, so long ago that no man knows any 
one who can remember them, it was the custom of the 
Sun to descend to earth and hold daily conversation with 
his younger brothers, the Emperor of China and the King 
of Siam. These two potentates held long and weighty 
consultations with the renowned and brilliant king Sol» 
taking his advice on all matters of importance, discussing 
with him all the details of state management and intrigue, 
and seeking his aid when foreign powers attacked their 
thrones. The stars and planets formed the retinue of the 
solar monarch, and were employed as ambassadors both in 
times or war and of peace. 


At that time the King of Siam dwelt at Ayuthia, then 
the capital of all the kingdom. Owing to the constant 
visits of the sun, life was loiter and less liable to disease. 
Such was the vitality imparted by the warmth and cheer- 
fulness of his rays» that no man began to talk of growing 
old until he had lived for about two thousand years. 

The Kii^; having reigned peacefully and with great 

success for over two hundred years, decided to abdicate in 

favour of his son, who was a mere youth of not more than 

one hundred and sixty or seventy years of age. Now after 

this young boy had ascended the throne, old King Sol 

made up his mind to do his best to assist the youthful 

sovereign in the difficult art of right government. To this 

end he kept his watchful eye ever fixed upon the young 

king and his doings. He never slept, .or took a holiday, 

but hour by hour, and day by day, poured forth his shining 

light in loving guardianship of his royal nephew. The 

services of the stars were no longer required. When they 

found themselves of no importance in the administration of 

government, they became suspicious and angry. They 

met together and formed a league, vowed to revolt against 

their liege lord, and to proclaim a republic at the earliest 

opportunity. Like all true conspirators they hid their deep 

designs, and while pretending sleep^ they only blinked 

and snoozed, ever on the alert for anything which they 

might use for the disadvantage of their powerful monarch. 

As they lay in wait, they said one to another, *' Why does our 

king never go to sleep now ? Aforetime he took his nightly 



rest as all respectable monarchs should. Why these sleep- 
less hours?" 

It happened that the old King, who had abdicated tiie 
throne, had a daughter of the most lovable disposition, who 
was also exceedingly fair to look upon. She was called 
Rosy Morn. Whenever she came to her father, he lost any 
lingering desires for regal pomp and splendour, for her 
presence was refreshing to him above all things on earth. 
No one except his own family had ever looked upon her. 
Beautiful and good, chaste and simple, she was beloved 
by all her relatives, with a love that was half worship. 

Her days were spent in rural pursuits of charming sim- 
plicity. She gathered flowers and made wreaths of them 
to deck her own fair head; she talked to the birds who 
never hid their gorgeous plumage when she approached 
them; and she listened to the voices of the spirits that 
frolic in the rain-drops and the dew, as they chattered and 
laughed in every floral cup. One day, having sung her 
father to rest, she wandered forth to stroll in the still green 
woods around her home. 

In these woods there was a cavern, whose entrance, 
hidden by a mass of tropical foliage, had never been dis- 
covered by any one except Rosy Morn, who, keen lover 
of nature as she was, knew every secret nook and comer 
of the whole forest. Through this secluded cavern there 
ran a brook, clear as crystal and pure beyond description. 
Whenever the maiden was tired of wandering through the 
woods, she made her way to this safe retreat and bathed 


her tiny feet in the clear cool water. Thus happiness and 
peace attended her day by day, and her mind, pure and 
tender, knew no other excitements except those of simple 
wonder and delight. 

But one day a butterfly of unusually brilliant appearance 
flittered across her path. It was larger than any she had 
ever seen before, and the colours of its wings were of the 
most resplendent tints. She chased this wonderful little 
creature, and tried to catch it, but without success. It flew 
from palm to palm, and from fern to fern, now hiding itself 
behind some radiant blossom, now poising itself high out 
of reach upon some feathery branch. Suddenly a light 
appeared, in whose brilliancy the hues of the butterfly 
were lost, and the eyes of the maiden dazzled so that she 
could not see. It was the chariot of old Sol coming over 
a neighbouring hill. She turned and fled, and retiring to 
the cave, quite unconscious that she had been observed 
by anyone, she sought to cool her heated body and refresh 
her weary limbs by bathing in the sparkling waters that 
ran through her retreat. 

But old Sol had seen her, and being struck by her 
wondrous beauty, the like of which in all his rambles he 
had never beheld before, he drove after her with furious 
speed, and discovered the place where she had concealed 
herself. He entered into the cavern, but as she was l3dng 
down asleep after her bath, he did not disturb her, but 
sat down quietly by her side, and waited patiently for her 
to open her eyes. When she awoke, she was startled by 


his dazzling presence. He calmed her fears, revealed to her 
all his majesty and power, and then cast himself before 
her in the humble suppliant attitude of a devout lover. 
The maiden, unable to resist either the glory of his station, 
or the sincerity of his submission to herself, accepted him 
as her lover, with great shyness and trembling. They 
plighted their troth, and wandered arm in arm about the 
cavern. They agreed to keep their engagement secret, and 
to meet regularly at noon every day in that place, until 
such time as it should be convenient to disclose their inten- 
tion to their friends. For about two thousand years they 
kept their betrothal a secret, but at last, through some 
mischance, the stars, eager for revolt, got an inkling of 
their monarch's misconduct. They set a watch, and one 
day when he was paying his accustomed day visit to his 
sweetheart, they seized his chariot, and driving with furious 
speed, they rushed home to spread the news. Elated with 
their discovery they proclaimed aloud all they knew of 
Sol's behaviour, and declared a republic. 

When the glorious monarch had said farewell to Rosy 
Morn for that day, he found that his carriage had been 
stolen, and that his conduct was known. He wept bitterly, 
shedding tears of pure gold. The mountains, on whose 
majestic forms he had so often cast his cheery, warming 
rays, now took pity on the distressed king, and opened a 
passage in the earth by means of which he could return 
to his home in safety. Every day he came to visit his 
sweetheart, driving in a new chariot through the mountain 


caverns. Ever as he drove along he cried aloud in sorrow 
for his misfortunes, and ever as he wept his tears fell 
down to earth in streams of purest gold. These precious 
tears hidden away in the ground are now the gold mines 
of Siam. It took him twelve hours to get home. Then 
he turned, and rode back during the night, taking another 
twelve hours' journey just to get a momentary glimpse at 
the faithful maiden. All this time Rosy Morn wandered 
about in caverns and mountains also. Her heart was heavy 
with her grief, and she wept bitterly. Her tears fell wherever 
she walked, in streams of purest silver, giving rise to the 
silver mines of the country. 

After a long time the revolted stars made a compact 
with their lawful king. For two weeks each month the 
maiden was to live with King Sol in some distant home, 
but during the other half of the month the stars were to 
be permitted to gaze upon her lovely face and call her 
moon. One other stipulation was made — namely, that Sol 
should never Idss Rosy Morn whenever there was anyone 
looking on. But this latter part of the agreement he 
occasionally breaks, for during the eclipse of the moon 
he is seen by many thousands of people, impudently kissing 
her silver face before the public gaze. Then the dwellers 
upon earth make a great noise to remind him of his promise, 
and to let him know how very shocked they are. 

Though this stoiy exists in the native legends, it is not 
generally accepted as giving the true theory of the eclipse ; 
the idea of sun- or moon-eating demons being far more 


popular. But this latter story also gives an account of 
the origin of the gold and silver mines of Siam. The cave 
in which Rosy Mom and Old Sol held their daily meetings, 
is said to be near Ayuthia. Until a few years ago, pilgrim* 
ages were made to this cave, and into a bottomless pit, 
every one according to his rank, cast in gold and silver 
as a memorial of the day when silver and precious metals 
were first discovered in the kingdom of Siam. 



About one hundred miles to the north-north-east of the 
city of Bangkok there stands an isolated hill, whose sides 
are greatly scored with ''rays" that plainly indicate its 
volcanic origin. As all the surrounding land is but a wide 
stretch of low level plain, flooded in the rainy season, the 
jagged peak is a conspicuous object for many miles away 
from its base. The hill is known as Mount Prabat The 
name ''Pra-bat" is a compound of two words, meaning 
''the holy foot," and is given to the hill because popular 
superstition asserts that in a hollow in its rocky sides there 
is a footprint of the holy Buddha. 

Thousands of people every year make then* way to 
the spot to worship this memento of their Master's presence 
on this earth. From Bangkok the pilgrims ascend the 
Menam Chow Phya in boats, until they reach the old ruined 
capital of Ayuthia, from which point, the rest of the journey, 
some fourteen or fifteen miles, is made by land. Some 
people trudge the whole way on foot; some ride in the 
picturesque buffalo carts, or in the cumbersome bullock 
waggons; while others travel by means of elephants. The 



howdah of the elephant is no gorgeously caparisoned seat, 
like those so often seen in Indian pictures, but is merely 
a plain wooden saddle, covered over with a light canopy 
of basket-work which shields the head from the heat of 
the sun, and the thorns of the long spiny creepers that 
hang from the branches overhead. The Siamese elephant 
does not kneel in order to allow the passenger to mount, 
but he lifts one of his front legs, and bends it at the knee 
so a3 to form a kind of step. A sharp iron spike, stuck 
in the end of a long rod or pole, is the weapon used by 
the mahout or elephant driver to guide the beast and to 
urge it to greater speed. It functions both as whip and 

The road, in the height of the pilgrim season, is thronged 
throughout its whole length with crowds of people going 
and returning, and there are plenty of enterprising Qiinese 
and Siamese at convenient intervals along the track, anxious 
to make a little honest profit by suppl3dng the devotees 
with food. Rice is the chief article offered for sale, aad 
is cooked in bamboo shoots, which here take the place of 
the ordinary iron pot. Sugar obtained from the palm tree, 
and wild honey in the comb, from the trees in the neigh- 
bouring forest, are also largely disposed of as palatable 
forms of light refreshment. 

On the hill, and round about it, there are many temple- 
like buildings and houses for the attendant priests. Salas, 
rooms for preaching, halls filled with hundreds of idols, 
and huts made of bamboo for the use of the pilgrims 


abound at the base of the hill, and testify to the large 
number of worshippers who annually frequent the place. 
On trees and temples, on shrines and shanties, are hung 
innumerable bells, which when light are swung by every 
breeze, and when heavy are banged by the worshippers. 
A native band performs hour by hour, and endeavours, 
unsuccessfully, to drown the clear sweet melody of the 
bells in its harsh discord of gongs and drums. The moun- 
tain i^ dotted all over with the usual white spire-crowned 
pagodas, and, over the footprint, a particularly beautiful 
shrine has been erected. Its roof is built in seven stories 
which overlap each other, and upon the summit rests a 
very tall prachadee with a snow-white spire and a richly 
gilded base, which indicates with dazzling brilliancy, the 
whole day llirough, the exact locality of the sacred spot 
The whole structure is placed on a small projecting plat- 
form in the rock, and the ascent is made by a series of 
about fifty or sixty steps cut in the solid rock. Up these 
steps all truly devout Buddhists crawl on their hands and 
knees, and as the result of the visits to the shrine of thou- 
sands of worshippers who year by year have come to bow 
before the footprint of their ancient teacher, the steps are 
distinctly worn and polished. 

The external walls of the building are covered with 
brightly coloured mosaics; the outer surfaces of the heavy 
doors and windows are beautifully inlaid with mother-of- 
pearl, and the whole of the interior is decorated with a 
series of perspectiveless frescoes, illustrating various scenes 


from the life of Buddha. The platform of rock is about 
thirty feet square; and inside the building the floor is 
laid with plates of solid silver covered over with a 
carpet of pure silver net-work, which is polished intenady 
bright by the knees of the devotees. Two copies of the 
sacred footprint are hung on the walls. Both are made of 
pure gold, and one of them has all the mystic symbols 
inlaid with precious stones. The footprint itself is about 
four feet long and one foot and a half broad» and both 
in size and shape bears no resemblance whatever to the 
footprint of anj^thing either human or divine. It is in a 
dark hole, and cannot be distinctly seen. The golden 
copies on the wall are apparently purely imaginative. 
Railings of solid bars of silver enclose the depression in 
the rock, and render minute examination perfectly impos- 
sible. A gilt canopy with flowing curtains of cloth of gold 
is suspended from the roof immediately above the object 
of the people's veneration. 

The numerous worshippers enter on their knees. They 
carry wax candles in their hands, and crawl up to the 
depression, prostrate themselves devoutly at its edge, fasten 
a bit of gold-leaf on the sides of the hole, sprinkle holy 
water on their heads, and then crawl out again on hands 
and knees. Offerings of bottles, looking-glasses, wax and paper 
flowers, and other tawdry objects are heaped in piles on the 
floor. The more valuable gifb are carefully preserved else- 
where. Those who cannot afford to give anything at all, satisfy 
their consciences by carefully fanning the footprint itself. 









The Siamese are not the only people in the world who 
have been known to reverence a supposed footprint, nor 
is Prabat the only place where the impress of the feet of 
the holy of old is pointed out The footprint superstition 
is world-wide. There is the well-known footprint on Adam's 
Peak in Ceylon, which is claimed by the Buddhists as mark- 
ing the place where Buddha once stood. It is worshipped 
by the Brahmins as being that of Siva, while the Maho- 
medans assert that it was made by Adam, and Christians 
have been known who have stated that they believe it to 
be the footprint of St. Thomas. On the Kodam Rasul 
Hill near Hyderabad, the Mahomedans have found a foot- 
print of Mahomed. At Thanet, St. Augustine left the marks 
of his feet upon a rock upon which he pressed heavily 
when he landed upon our heathen shores. In a circular 
chapel over a foot-like depression in the rocky sides of the 
Mount of Olives, the footprint of Christ is pointed out to 
travellers. On the other side of the world the inhabitants 
of the island of Samoa exhibit a similar memorial of Tiitii ; 
while the ancient Mexicans claimed to possess an equally 
authentic relic of Tezcatlipoa. 

In a "Life of Buddha", written in Sanskrit, it is said 
that when Gautama was born he bore in his person a 
number of signs or personal peculiarities that at once fore- 
told that his ultimate destiny was that of a powerful 
emperor or of a widely renowned and worshipped teacher. 
There are thirty-two chief and eighty minor signs given, 
and they mostly refer to personal characteristics considered 


handsome or beautiful in men or women according to the 
Oriental idea of beauty. Some of them do not appear to 
the mind of the European to be at all conducive to an 
impressive or handsome presence. For instance, the wonder- 
ful being who is bom with the thirty-two major distingruish- 
ing marks of future greatness or holiness, has amongst 
other things, a skin of the colour of gold, arms so long 
that they reach far below the knees when he stands up- 
right, and a thin butterfly kind of tongue long enough to 
reach round and enter his ears when fully produced. Upon 
his fingers and toes there should be a network of lines 
described with mathematical regularity. 

The worship of ttie footprint in the Far East extends 
back for many years, and in many of the oldest sculptures 
that have been brought from India, there are to be seen 
distinct representations of the sole of a foot with the mark 
of a wheel in the centre. At first, all other marks, except 
this universal one of the wheel, varied considerably in 
character, and were few in number. But the imaginations 
of the Eastern worshippers gradually added further ornamen- 
tations until the sole of the foot was covered entirely by 
a collection of symbols. The elaboration of these signs 
reached its greatest height in Siam and Burmah. 

There is nothing in the earliest scriptures to warrant the 
present widely-spread superstition, and, in fact, it is not 
until many years after Buddha*s death that any mention 
of such a belief is to be found in the Sanskrit writings. 

The Prabat relic in Siam was discovered in 1602 A.D., 



hy a hunter named Boon. It is very probable that he had 
at some time or other been a pilgrim to Ceylon, for such 
pilgrimages to Adam's peak were not uncommon in those 
days. One day when hunting in the forest he noticed a 
depression in the rock, which he thought resembled the 
relic m Ceylon. He proclaimed his discovery to many 
people, and the king, hearing the report, sent a body of 
learned monks to the place to examine the footprint and 
report upon its authenticity. They examined and compared 
it with the copies they possessed of the one in Ceylon, 
and returned to the king, declaring that it was perfectly 
genuine. Thereupon, the sovereign, being only too willing 
to accept the conclusions of the monks, made no further 
enquiry as to the character of the discovery, but built a 
shrine over it, and ordered his people to worship it annually. 
This they gladly did, for their national pride was intensely 
gratified by the belief that they had in their country so 
unmistakable a proof that the holy Buddha had once resided 
amongst them. 

In all the well-known Buddhist footprints the figure of 
a wheel or disc occupies the centre. It probably first re- 
presented speed, and was therefore symbolical of fleetness 
of foot, an attribute of greatness in early days. In later 
times it lost the form of an ordinary chariot wheel, and 
became the Chakkra or quoit of Vishnu and Indra. Its 
form is well seen in the watermark on Siamese stamps, 
and on the old Siamese coins. In the hands of Vishnu 
and Indra it was a powerful weapon of destruction, as it 


always annihilated all those enemies against whom, in their 
wrath, they hurled it. In the Buddhist mythology it has 
lost its material character, and taken on a new significance, 
as representing the pure moral teachings of Gautama, 
which when cast by holy men against the ignorance and 
sin of the world will effectually destroy them. 

The other marks on the footprints in Siam and Burmah 
are later designs added by credulous and imaginative 
worshippers. They are grouped symmetrically round the 
central Chakkra, and represent various attributes of royal 
power, and holiness, or else are symbolical of different 
natural and supernatural ideas. The principal of them are 
mentioned below. There are the sixteen heavens of the 
formed Brahmas, and the six heavens inhabited by the 
inferior angels or Devas. Another sign represents Mount 
Meru, the centre of each system of the universe. There 
are also depicted on the sole of the foot, the seven 
mountains which form a ring round Mount Meru, and the 
seven belts of deep dark ocean that lie in the valleys 
between them, and in whose waters monstrous fishes and 
water-elephants gambol and amuse themselves. Then there 
is another ocean, the eighth, in which float four worlds 
inhabited by human beings. In the first of these worlds, the 
men have faces such as are familiar to the dwellers upon 
our own particular planet In the second, the faces of the 
inhabitants are square in shape, while those of the third 
have a round moon-like visage, and those of the fourth 
have countenances bounded by semi-circles. Another com- 


partment of the footprint holds Mount Chakrawan, the great 
mountain of crystal which encircles the world and forms a 
wall around it The heavens are represented by a group of 
stars. The Himalaya Mountains, that appear so often in 
Hindoo legends, are not forgotten, nor are their seven 
lakes in which bloom lotuses of many different colours, 
ever omitted. Five rivers flow from the Himalaya Mountains, 
and on their banks are the great forests inhabited by fabu- 
lous beasts and birds. The Naga king, the seven-headed 
cobra who shielded Buddha, with his seven hoods, during 
a time of danger, finds a place in another compartment 
But amidst all these curious and mystic symbols there is 
no animal of evil disposition, for upon the foot of the holy 
man there was nothing of bad omen. Figures representing 
royal authority occur in the form of a palace, a flag, a 
throne, a royal sword, a white seven-storied state umbrella, 
a spiral crown, and a golden ship. 

It is rather surprising that the late king, who was very 
hostile to many popular superstitions, encouraged the worship 
at the shrine on the hill at Prabat Perhaps he half believed 
in it himself, or perhaps he thought it good for his people 
to be reminded as often and as forcibly as possible of the 
life of the founder of the national faith. The reader need 
scarcely be told that not only is the whole footprint 
purely fabulous, but that also there is nothing in the 
authentic history of ancient times to warrant the notion 
that Buddha ever set foot in Siam at all. 

The two following stories referring to Buddha's feet are 



given by Alabaster, as being translated from the Burmese 
" Life of Buddha" by Bishop Bigandet 

*' During all the time that elapsed after the rain, Buddha 
travelled through the country, engaged in his usual benevolent 
errand, and converting many amongst men and angels. In 
the country of Gaurint, in a village of Pounhas, called 
Magoulia, the head man, one of the richest in the place, 
had a daughter whose beauty equalled that of a daughter 
of the angels. She had been in vain asked in marriage by 
princes, nobles, and Pounhas. The proud damsel had rejected 
every offer. On the day that her father saw Gautama 
he was struck with his manly beauty and deportment. He 
said within himself, "This man shall be a proper match 
for my daughter." On his return home he communicated 
his views to his wife. On the following day, the daughter 
having put on her choicest dress and richest apparel, they 
all three went with a large retinue to the Dzetawon 
monastery. Admitted to the presence of Buddha, the 
father asked for his daughter the favour of being allowed 
to attend on him. Without returning a word or reply, or 
giving the least sign of acceptance or refusal, Buddha rose 
up and withdrew to a small distance, leaving behind him 
on the floor the print of one of his feet. The Pounha's 
wife, well skilled in the science of interpreting wonderful 
signs, saw at a glance that the marks on the print indicated 
a man no longer under the control of passions, but a sage 
emancipated from the thraldom of concupiscence." 

The story goes on to relate how the father made a 


further offer of his daughter to Buddha, and how the 
saint preached to the parents a sermon that stilled their 
longings to possess him for a son-in-law. They returned 
home with their still unmarried daughter. She never for- 
gave the man who had refused her love, and cherished for 
him a lively and life-long hatred. 

The other story tells of a visit paid by the saint Kathaba 
to the pile upon which Buddha was laid for his cremation. 

"Standing opposite to the feet, he made the following 
prayer, *I wish to see the feet of Buddha whereupon are 
imprinted the marks that formerly prognosticated his future 
glorious destiny. May the cloth and cotton they are wrapt 
with be unloosened, and the coffin as well as the pile be 
laid open, and the sacred feet appear out, and extend so 
far as to lie on my head.* He had scarcely uttered this 
prayer when the whole suddenly opened, and there came 
out the beautiful feet, like the full moon emerging from 
the bosom of a dark cloud.** 



The Siamese Twins and the Siamese White Elephants 
are the two objects round which many an Englishman 
grouped all his knowledge of *^ The Kingdom of the Yellow 
Robe'' until the political troubles of the past few years 
drew public attention to this hitherto little known country. 
The elephants have g^iven rise to a proverbial expression 
in England, which is a little misleading when viewed in 
the light of Siamese opinion. To give to a European a 
useless and troublesome present is known as giving him a 
•' white elephant," but to give a Buddhist a present of a 
white elephant would be to give him possession of a creature 
which, kindly treated, would cause blessings and good 
fortune to fall in showers around him in this and all 
future existences. 

The white elephant has been held in great respect in 
many countries, and has played a great part in many 
legends. In Enarea, in Central Africa, elephants of this 
colour are reverenced. 

When Shahab ud-Din, in 1194, attacked and defeated 
Jaya Chandra of Benares, he captured from his conquered 


foes a white elephant which refused to make obeisance to 
its new master, and made a furious assault upon its driver 
when he attempted to coerce it into respectful behaviour. 

In the time of the grandfather of Mahomed, when the 
Christian king of Himyar advanced against Kenanah in 
Hijaz, to revenge the pollution of a Christian church at 
Sennaa, he secured his victory beforehand by going to the 
scene of battle upon an elephant whose skin was of the 
colour of milk. 

In Siam the representation of the white elephant is 
everywhere conspicuous. The national flag is "a white 
elephant on a scarlet ground." The mercantile flag is "a 
white elephant on a blue ground." On every temple and 
official building in the land there is a representation in 
stone, plaster, or colour of this wonderful creature. But 
the body of a real white elephant has never yet been seen. 
The creature who bears the name is simply an elephant 
which is a little lighter in colour than the ordinary ele- 
phant. For the sake of convenience we shall refer to it 
as the "white elephant," though there is no such name 
for it in the native language, and though its colour is 
very much more like that of a dirty bath-brick. Even this 
distant approach to whiteness is not distributed generally 
all over the body, but is usually confined to a few soli- 
tary patches near the extremities. These blotches of lighter 
colour are not natural or hereditary. They are often the result 
of an eruptive affection. The irritation that accompanies the 
disease causes the animal to rub the affected part against 


the trunks of trees or other hard material, and so to destroy 
the epidermal surface. All so-called white elephants have, 
however, a few really white hairs which are not to be 
accounted for in this manner. 

The white elephant has at times been worshipped with 
a veneration which, though we may consider it misdirected, 
may charitably be regarded as laudable in intention. It has 
been believed that this particular animal contains the soul 
of some very distinguished person, possibly that of a Buddha, 
who in some future age will appear in human form to 
enlighten and bless the world by his counsel and example. 
This being the belief, the adoration that is offered to such 
an animal is reasonable. 

The white elephants in the stables at Bangkok have 
chiefly been captured in the Laos territories in the north. 
When one of them is caught, the finder is handsomely 
rewarded, and there is general rejoicing throughout the 
land. It is immediately handed over to the king, who 
provides for its earthly comforts ever after. It is of priceless 
value, and cannot be bought or sold. 

About twenty years ago a body of Brahmin astrologers 
who are permanently attached to the court, declared that 
the present reign would be an especially happy one, and 
that several white elephants would be caught. Both their 
forecasts have proved correct. Their prophetic utterances 
were conveyed from one end of the country to the other, 
and large rewards were offered to the men who would 
discover a white elephant. For a long time a most diligent 


search in forest and jungle was made by the native hunters. 
Every place where elephants had ever been seen or heard 
of was examined with great care and perseverance, but 
without success. One day, however, a number of men 
caught sight of an elephant of excellent shape, but his 
colour gave no evidence that he was one of the kind 
they were searching for. On looking closer at the mud- 
bespattered animal, they were attracted by some peculiarity 
in the skin, and abo by the pale Neapolitan yellow colour 
of the iris of the eye. This latter mark being considered 
as one of the chief beauties of a white elephant, they 
determined to capture the animal. This was a matter 
speedily accomplished. They then took the animal home 
and gave it a good bath, patiently scrubbing and scraping 
away until all the accumulated mud and dirt upon it was 
removed, when to their almost infinite joy and astonishment 
they beheld a most beautiful specimen of the white elephant 
family. It was of pale bath-brick colour, and on its back 
there were actually a few hairs that could, without any 
flattery, be truly called white. This elephant is said to be 
the finest example of the kind ever captured. 

The excitement which prevailed in the whole land to its 
furthest boundaries, and affected the whole population from 
king to coolie, is said to have been unrealisable to the 
English mind. It was more than a mere national rejoicing, 
for in many thousands of homes it was mingled with that 
deep superstitious veneration in which the Oriental mind 
satisfies its longings and its imagination. Gorgeous prepara- 


tions were made for the elephant's reception. The king travelled 
up the river as far as Ayuthia to meet it; Bangkok was 
decorated and illuminated; every nobleman was arrayed in 
his richly embroidered cloth of gold, and was followed by 
his retinue of servants. People from outlying districts 
poured into the city to swell the enormous crowd of specta- 
tors; every available ornament for personal use was 
displayed; the brightest colours were donned; flags and 
bunting were hoisted ; and when the noble animal appeared, 
surrounded by gaily gilded state barges, a g^oup of Brahmin 
priests descended to the river's edge to receive the living 
cause of all this rejoicing. To it they read an address, of 
which the following translation is a part: 

'' With holy reverence we now come to worship the angels 
who preside over the destiny of all elephants. Most powerful 
angels, we entreat you to assemble now, in order that you 
may prevent all evil to His Majesty the King of Siam, 
and also to this magnificent elephant, which has recently 
arrived. We appeal to you all, whom we now worship, 
and beg that you will use your power in restraining the 
heart of this animal from aU anger and unhappiness. We 
abo beg that you will incline this elephant to listen to the 
words of instruction and comfort, that we now deliver. 

"Most Royal Elephant 1 We beg that you will not think 
too much of your father and mother, your relatives and 
friends. We beg that you will not regret leaving your 
native mountains and forests, because there are evil spirits 
there that are very dangerous; and wild beasts are there 


that howl, making a fearful noise ; and there too is the big 
bird which hovers round and often picks up elephants and 
eats them ; and there are bands of cruel hunters who kill 
elephants for their ivory. We trust that you will not return 
to the forest, for you would be in constant danger. And 
that is not all: in the forest you have no servants, and it 
is very unpleasant to sleep with the dust and filth adhering 
to your body, and where the flies and mosquitoes are 

"Brave and noble elephant I We entreat you to banish 
every wish to stay in the forest. Look at this delightful 
place^ this heavenly city I It abounds in wealth and in 
everything your eyes could wish to see or your heart 
desire to possess. It is of your own merit that you have 
come to behold this beautiful city, to enjoy its wealth, 
and to be the favourite guest of His Most Exalted Majesty 
the King." * 

Then the Brahmin priests baptised the sacred beast with 
holy water, and, after its purification, bestowed upon it the 
highest of the titles which the king can confer upon his 
subjects. The title was written on a piece of sugar-cane. 
Upon this cane there were also a number of sentences 
describing the virtues, qualities, and perfections of the new 
nobleman. When the baptismal ceremonies were over, the 
sugar-cane was handed to the beast, that he might eat it, 
a part of the ceremony which the elephant understood, and 
performed with noteworthy despatch. It was then lodged 

• (<Siam". Miss Cort 


in the royal stables, with a few other brethren who had 
previously experienced the same feting and reverence. 

Old accounts tell us that the white elephants were 
treated, during their lives, with the greatest respect and care. 
Their stables were comfortable, and their food consisted of 
such dainties as were thought most likely to be appreciated 
by them. Their food was presented to them upon silver 
salvers, by servants who knelt as they offered the dish. 
Their eyes were reverently wiped ; they received cool sponge 
baths at frequent intervals ; and it might fairly be supposed 
that they led about as lazy and luxurious a life as any crea- 
ture could desire. If they were ill the wisest of the court 
physicians were sent to them, and their ailments received 
as much weighty consideration as those of a king. At death 
they were deeply mourned for, their departure from this life 
being attended with the usual eastern pomp and ceremony. 
They do not live in this condition now. As Henry Norman 
says in his book on "The Far East" — "they are in a plight 
that would shame the bear-cage of a wandering circus; 
tended by slouching ruffians who lie about in rags and 
tatters, eking out a scanty livelihood by weaving baskets, 
and begging a copper from every visitor in return for throw- 
ing a bunch of seedy grass or rotting bananas to the swaying 
beasts, which raise their trunks in anticipation of the much 
needed addition to their scanty diet." 

Elephant stories are prevalent in the myths which cloud 
and hide the purer ideas of the Buddhist faith. Shortly 
before the birth of Buddha, his mother Queen Maia had a 


vision. The four kings of the world removed her to the 
Himalayan Forest, and there seated her on an immense 
rock. She was bathed, robed, and adorned by a number 
of queens, and was then led to a golden palace standing 
on a silver mountain, and requested to rest on a couch, 
with her face turned to the west. She did so, and beheld 
a golden mountain on which the future Buddha marched 
in the form of a white elephant. It descended the golden 
mountain, and bearing a white lotus flower in its trunk, 
and trumpeting loudly as it came, made its way to the 
couch of the astonished Queen Maia. 

The birth of Buddha was attended by a number of 
portents which betokened that a most distinguished person 
had appeared on earth. Either he was a Buddha or a 
universal emperor — 

"A Chakravartin, such as rise to rule 
Once in each thousand years." * 

If he were the latter, he would possess "seven gifts", 
tokens of his future universal power. On of them was 

"... a snow white elephant, 

The Hasti-Katna, bom to bear his King." * 

By the signs on his foot, which we have already 
described, he was known to be a Buddha. One of these 
signs is an elephant, named Chatthan. This is the three- 
headed elephant on which Indra rides, and is represented 
in many Siamese decorations, and in the royal coat of 

♦ "Light of Asia". Arnold. 


arms, but in all the sculptures which represent the sole of 
Buddha's foot, the elephant possesses only one head. 

There is also in Siamese story a king of elephants, 
Chatthan or Chaddanta, who lives on the shores of the 
lake Chatthan in the Himalayas. Here he resides in a golden 
palace, attended by eighty thousand ordinary elephants. 
The elephant Chatthan is sometimes known as ** the elephant 
of six defences," an allusion to his possession of six tusks. 

When the great king Mara (who reigns over all the Mara 
angels, and corresponds in the Buddhist scriptures to the 
Satan of the Bible) came to tempt the Buddha as he sat 
under the Bo-tree, in the time when he attained the wis- 
dom and holiness of Buddhahood, it is said that he came 
on an elephant. He assumed an immense size, and bran- 
dishing numerous weapons in his thousand arms, advanced 
to the tree, riding on his elephant Girimaga^ which was no 
less than a thousand miles in height. 

A number of similar elephant stories could easily be 
compiled, for they are plentifully distributed in the legends 
of the East. Probably the great size and strength of the 
beast are the bases upon which the stories rest. 

How important the elephant was in former times may 
be gathered from a letter written to Sir John Bowring by 
the late king, when that nobleman visited Siam in March 
1855, on a diplomatic mission. Sir John's steamer had 
scarcely anchored at the bar at the mouth of the river, 
when a letter was handed to him from the sovereign, wel- 
coming him to the country in very flattering terms. The 


letter was signed when the king suddenly added a post- 
script, saying, *'I have just returned from the old city 
Ayudia, of Siam, fifteen days ago, with the beautiful she- 
elephant which Your Excellency will witness here on Your 
Excellency's arrival." 

Every few years there is a great elephant "hunt" at 
Ayuthia, to procure elephants for government service, A 
large kraal of quadrangular shape is erected. Its walls are 
six feet thick> and there is but one entrance. Inside the 
walls there is a fence of thick stakes set a few inches 
apart from each other. A herd of wild elephants is driven 
by tame ones into the enclosure, and the best of those 
thus obtained are noted. A good elephant should be of 
a light colour, have black nails on his toes, and his tail 
intact. As many of the stronger elephants often lose their 
tails in fights, it is not always possible to obtain an animal 
which is both powerful and handsome. The chosen 
elephants are lassoed, and their feet bound together. The 
tame elephants render great assistance in the work, and 
vigorously prod with their tusks any captives who become 
obstreperous. After a few days' dieting and training the 
captured animals are ready to be taught their several duties. 

Writers upon foreign countries generally consider it a 
portion of their task to make mental if not outspoken 
comparisons between their mother land and the land they 
have been discussing, and they generally make their com- 


parisons in favour of the former. Yet it is not easy for any 
man to hold the balance fairly, and to say in what way a 
nation is wanting; for whether the comparison be of things 
moral or social, there arises the difficulty of fbdng a standard 
of measurement Morality cannot be weighed in a balance 
or measured with a foot-rule. What is reprehensible in one 
country may be at least excusable in another. Take, for 
instance, the effect of climate upon national morality. In a 
cold country a man who Is not bom to wealth must 
either work or starve. Hence arise the pushing, prosperous, 
practical, so-called civilised nations of the world. But in a 
warm and fertile country where the fruit grows to your 
hand, and the earth brings forth her abundance for your 
maintenance, where the sun and the rain perform nearly 
all the agricultural labour that is needed, it is scarcely to 
be wondered at that the people do not hanker after work. 
It is therefore scarcely permissible to call them lazy accord- 
ing to the general acceptation of the meaning of the term. 
They have no particular liking for long and vigorous toil 
in the blazing heat of the sun, and their apparent indo- 
lence is the result of their environment. It will never be 
otherwise until humanity has lost its human nature. 

The progress of any Oriental nation towards civilisation, 
such as we understand it, must of necessity be slow. Their 
intense conservatism is not easily to be abolished. 

To the country of Siam these remarks are particularly 
applicable. Those who describe the habit of chewing 
betel-nut as disgusting, forget that there can be no one 


universal standard to judge by, and that many European 
habits appear equally revolting to the Eastern. When 
speaking of the dirtiness of their dwellings it would be as 
well to remember the slums of the great European cities, 
and the defective sanitation of the majority of their dwell- 
ing-places. And when pronouncing judgment upon the 
slowness with which educational reforms are being under- 
taken, it should not be forgotten that we ourselves, in spite 
of our long educational history and our modern reforms, 
number our illiterate voters by hundreds. 

The climatic, racial^ and social differences between the 
nations of the East and of the West are too great to 
render it easily possible for a member of either to sum 
up for or against the general moral condition of the other. 
The present writer, while believing that the evolutionary 
laws of growth and development apply as well to nations 
as to animals and plants, is well content to leave to others 
the task of estimating the intrinsic value of Siam's present 
moral and social condition; hoping only that his attempts 
to portray briefly some of the manners and customs, the 
ideas and interests of her people, as he has actually seen 
them in daily life and intercourse, may help to give a 
truer notion of their condition and prospects, than would 
more lengthy criticisms founded on general observations of 
those merely political matters which necessarily bound the 
horizon of the casual and passing traveller. 


The Household of the Lafayettes 


With Photogravure frontispiece. 

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The Kingdom of the Yellow Robe 

Being Sketches of the Domestic and Religious Rites and 
Ceremonies of the Siamese 


Fully Illustrated by E. A. NORBURY, R.C.A. 
and from Photographs. 

New Popular Edition. Large Crown 8vo, 6s. 

" A pleasantly written little book, popular and light in 
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traordinary aptness and intelligence which Siamese children 
as a rule display. . -^ ." — Times. 

" Of the quaint courtship customs in the strange land 
where there are no old maids, and of many other curious 
things, we have, alas ! no room to tell. It is with a feeling of 
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so charming and interesting a people as that which inhabits 
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The Alps from End to End 


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Rev. W. A. B. COOLIDGE. 

With 52 Illustrations by 

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Among the Himalayas 


(Author of The Buddhism of TibeL) 

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On Plain and Peak : 

Sport in Bohemia and Tyrol 


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Travels and Life in Ashanti and 



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A Russian Province of the North 


Governor of the Province of Archangel. 

Translated from the Russian by Henry Cooke. 

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A Northern Highway of the Tsar 


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'* A vivid and entertaining account of his journey.*' — Literature, 

The Rise of Portuguese Power in 
India, 1497— 1550 


Bengal Civil Service (Retired). 

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English Women and Sport. The 
Foxhunting. Mrs. Burn. 

Hare Hunting. The Editor. 


The Hon. Mrs. 

Lancelot Lowther. 

for Tarpon. Mrs. 


Mrs. Berens and Miss 


Miss May Balfour. 

Miss Starkie-Bence. 

Miss Spong. 

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Susan, Countess of Malmes- 


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9. Driving. Miss Massey-Main- 


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11. Fancy Figures and Musical 

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12. Tennis. Miss Maud Marshall. 
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Appendix B. Rules of Lawn Tennis. 

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" No more agreeable picture of a clergyman has been 
drawn since * The Vicar of Wakefield.' No more sympathetic 
or humorous treatment of a provincial society has been pub- 
lished since * Cranford/ It is only the form of these two 
books which suggests comparison, for * Sunningwell ' stands 
by itself and owes nothing to any one model." — Speaker. 

" This is a scholarly, well- written, and interesting book, 
not without a good deal both of humour and of pathos." — 
Manchester Guardian. 

"There can be little doubt that the author presents a 
truthful picture of the ecclesiastical life of the last generation ; 
the work is one, moreover, that in an age of hurried book- 
making deserves recognition by reason of its thoughtful and 
scholarly character." — Morning Post. 

" * Sunningwell ' is a book into the making of which much 
shrewd and humorous observation and much cultured and 
vigorous thought have gone, and it is a book worth reading — 
even worth buying." — Scotsman. 

" The views put forward throughout the volume, whether 

or not the writer's own, are always worth considering, even 

when we dissent from them — certainly they cannot be lightly 

put aside. And the book is excellent reading, for it is full of 

vigorous and weighty sayings and full of humour too." — 



The Taming of the Jungle 


The Cover specially designed by J. T. Nettleship. 

3J. 6df. 

" ' The Taming of the Jungle ' is one of the most striking books 
of Indian life that we have seen since Mr. Kipling produced his 
' Plain Tales from the Hills/ and it does not suffer by comparison 
with the work that made Mr. Kipling famous. Indeed, if Dr. 
Doyle had been first in the field, we venture to think that Mr. 
Kipling's work would have been adjudged less good than this later 
effort."— Z/V^rfl/wr^. 

" One needs no previous knowledge of this folk of the Terai, 
away there under the Himalayas, to appreciate the insight and 
observation which characterise every stroke of the charming sketches. 
It would be altogether unfair to say that the author owes his inspira- 
tion to Mr. Kipling. He speaks from long and close experience ; 
and, what is better still, his note is his own. . . . In a brilliant 
illustration by Mr. Nettleship, full of fire and movement, the beasts 
of the jungle are seen careering across the back of the book. The 
covers, in fact, have been drawn as well as any huntsman could do 
M:'— Punch. 

" The book reflects the romance of the jungle and the thoughts 
and customs of an uncultured race, endowed with many admirable 
characteristics and some of the qualities of barbarism, in a manner 
that deserves appreciative recognition. The author has evidently 
lived among the people and closely studied their ways, so that, while 
the picture that he presents is engaging, it also conveys a sense of 
verisimilitude." — Morning Post 

" I am impelled to say a word in warm praise of the extremely 

pleasant little book of Indian stories, without caring a fig for the 

purely academic question as to whether they would have been put 

forth exactly as they stand had Mr. Kipling never lived. Dr. 

Doyle knows the folk of the Terai intimately ; he has the power of 

spinning a good story out of the good stuff with which his memory 

is stored."— T. P. O'Connor, in M, A, P, 


Janice Meredith 

A Story of the American Revolution 


Crown 8vo, 6s. 

** Mr. Ford, who is already a distinguished American writer, is greatly 
to be congratulated on a very delightful novel, which, no less from its 
historical than for its literary merit, will considerably add to his reputa- 
tion."— TAe Daily News. 

" The story is an excellent and carefully executed romance of love and 
-wd^r."— Spectator. 

" Janice and her girl friends are delightful." — Literature. 

" Mr. Ford has the right feeling for romance ; he knows how to bring 
his reader into the thick of the excitement and give him the right thrill of 
personal participation in the struggle, and he keeps his grip on the 
reader's attention through a long and interesting book." — The Speaker. 


The Story of an Untold Love 

Crown 8vo, 6s. 

" You must by all means read * The Story of an Untold Love.'" — 

*' The book may be commended to readers of all classes and tastes." 
— AthencBum. 


Tattle Tales of Cupid 

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" There is not one of them that is not dainty .ind entertaining."- 
Daily Mail. 

" A very attractive and highly entertaining book by the clever author 
of * The Story of an Untold Lowt:'— Observer. 


Crown 8vo, 6^. 
"In seeking a parallel to this weird, powerful and horrible story, our 
minds revert to such tales as *The Mysteries of Adolpho,' * Frankenstein,* 
*Wuthering Heights,' *The Fall of the House of Usher,' and 'Marjer)r of 
Quelher.' But * Dracula' is even more appalling in its gloomy fascination 
than any one of these." — Daily Mail. 

" It is horrid and creepy to the last degree. It is also excellent, and 
one of the best things in the supernatural line that we have been lucky 
enough to hit upon." — Pall Mall Gazette. 



The Dominion of Dreams 

Fourth Edition. Crown 8vo, 6s. 

" For the gifts of Miss Fiona Macleod, it is impossible to use the common words of 
gratitude. To people who live in a paved city, or a half-paved suburb, dimly con- 
scious of sky, and aware of the voice of the wind only when a gale sings in the telegraph 
wires, her writings are as the water of life. We know not, neither do we care, whether 
Fiona Macleod be man, woman, or spirit, though we suppose her treasure is hidden in 
an earthen vessel. Enough for us that she hears, as only poets hear, the old authentic 
voices of the world."— Z>a/7y Chronicle. 

"Of the extreme beauty and subtlety of Miss Fiona Macleod's writing there is no 
need now to speak. She has caught the habit of the true Gael, who sees an idea in a 
picture, and expresses a thought in a metaphor." — Literature, 

Green Fire 

A Story of the Western Islands. 
Crown 8vo, 6s, 

' ' There are few in whose hands the pure threads have been so skilfully and deli- 
cately woven as they have in Fiona Macleod's." — Pall Mall Ga2ette. 

"The fuller revelation which we looked for from Miss Fiona Macleod's earlier 
works has been amply fulfilled in this volume." — Western Mail, 

The Laughter of Peterkin 

A Re-telling of Old Stories of the Celtic Wonder-world. 

Illustrated by Sunderland Rollinson. 

Crown 8vo, 6s, 

" The writing is full of beauty and passion." — St. James's Gazette, 
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these old tales of the Celtic Wonderland have been confided."— Morning Post, 

By Order of the Company 

Crown 8vo, 6^. 

** Miss Mary Johnston's former novel prepared the reader to welcome her name on 
a title-page, and ' By Order of the CompKany ' will not disappoint such expectations, 
for it is quite as good reading as ' The did Dominion. ' The picture of the very 
earliest days of Virginia is excellently painted, and the personages of the story are 
sympathetic and interesting." — Spectator. 

*' *By Order of the Company' is fascinating ; as a picture of Virginian life about 
the year i6ai, it is fully as good. And as a record of the deeds of brave men, and 
one lady who was passing fair, it is worth a dozen of the novels that are turned out by 
the type-writers and phonographs of those writers known above everything else as 
' popular.' " — BlacA and White. 

The Old Dominion 

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"We have had of late an abundance of romance, but not better than this. The 
heroine is adorable. The whole book is a masterpiece of romance." — British Weehly. 

" It is an exciting narrative of a perilous ad venture, and of a hate that was con- 
verted into love as strong as death. The characters are drawn with a strong hand, 
and the interest is sustained to the end." — Punch. 


Caleb West 


(Author of " Tom Grogan," etc.) 

Second Edition. Crown 8vo, 6s. 

''It is a long time since we have met with so satisfactory a book as 
' Caleb West.' Readers must go to the book for themselves, and enjoy its 
pathos, its humour, its rich character-drawing, and its thrilling adventures, as 
we must confess that we have done." — Speakn; 

*' The reader will find enough of all sorts to hold his interest to the end. 
Mr. Hopkinson Smith writes well and carefully, and often charms us with 
literary workmanship of a really high order." — Westminster Gazette, 

** Mr. F. Hopkinson Smith is to be congratulated on having written a really 
fine novel, which is full of admirable character." — Daily Telegraph. 


Crown 8vo, 6s. 

** There is good food for thought as well as a right good story in Mr. 
Macllwaine's record of * Dinkinbar.'" — Daily Chronicle. 

" Have been much interested in a book constructed on very unconventional 
lines, entitled ' Dinkinbar,' by Herbert Macllwaine. I have read a great many 
stories of bush life, but none that seemed to present it with such vivid natural- 
ness. "— Weekly Sun. 

**Mr. Herbert Macllwaine's name is new to us, but in * Dinkinbar' he has 
written the best story of Australian bush life we ever came across." — Standard. 


Fate the Fiddler 

Crown 8vo, 6s. 

In the Shadow of the Crown 


With an Introduction by Maurice Hewlett 

Second Edition. Crown 8vo. 6s. 

** Remembering that as a rule historical novels are somewhat dull, and that 
therefore the reading public is inclined to neglect them, we repeat with added 
emphasis that in our opinion Mr. Bidder's contribution to this kind of literature 
deserves a large audience and close attention." — Literary World. 

"A very brightly written and coherent story." — Daily Telegraph. 

*• The author, while giving free play to a picturesque imagination, has succeeded 
in imparting an air of reality to everything, the romantic atmosphere blending 
with the truths of history." — Scotsman. 

" *In the Shadow of the Crown' is a remarkable book, and one of great 
promise."— -Pa// Mall Gazette. 


English Contemporary Art 

Translated from the French of Robert de la Sizeranne 


With numerous Illustrations after Lord Leighton, P.R.A., Sir 

John Millais, P.R.A., G. F. Watts, R.A., Sir E. 

Burne-Jones, Prof. Herkomer, R.A., etc. 

Demy 8vo, 12s, 

** A most readable and well-written volume of criticism. . . . Tbe book 
is well worth reading for the virility and excellence of its author's style." — Fail 
Mall Gazette, 


A Series of Portraits of Distinguished Men and Women of the day, 
reproduced from Original Drawings. 


;^2 2J. net. 

"One of the most artistic and spirited of modem collections of portraits of 
our contemporaries is the handsome folio published by Messrs. A. Constable 
& Co., and entitled * Portraits of Men and Women, by the Marchioness of 
Granby. " — Athmaum, 

National Worthies 

A Selection from the National Portrait Gallery. 

With Biographical Notes. 

About 150 Illustrations. Crown 4to. £2 2s. net. 

Only 750 copies printed, of which 260 have 

been reserved for America. 

The binding of this Volume in full leather is reproduced in facsimile from 
an example by Roger Payne, now exhibited in the King's Library at the British 
Museum. The publishers are indebted to Mr. Cyril Davenport, F.S.A., for 
advice and assistance in the reproduction of this beautiful example of the cele- 
brated eighteenth-century English craftsman. 

To Messrs. A. Constable & Co. has come the happy thought of issuing in 
a volume entitled * National Worthies * reproductions of 154 of the pictures in 
the National Portrait Gallery. A fine paper has been used, and the portraits, 
for the most part, come out remarkably well. They have been judiciously 
selected. They are followed by notes on each, consisting of concbe biographiod 
sketches, with suitable quoted comments on each." — TAe Globe. 

Ornament in European Silks 


With One Hundred and Sixty-nine Illustrations. 

Crown 4to. Bound in half vellum, gilt. 32^. net. 

The Romance of our Ancient 


With nearly 200 Illustrations by Alexander Ansted. 

Crown 8vo, 6s. 

"A very interesting book, carefully put together from the best authorities, 
and excellently ilhistrated. The successive styles of architecture, the chief fea- 
tures of the church, and the peculiarities found in individual buildings— these and 
other things, more varied and numerous than we can describe here, are dealt 
with. . . . May be confidently recommended." — Spectator » 

London City Churches 


With numerous Illustrations by Leonard Martin, and a Map, 

Imperial i6mo, 6j. Second Edition, with a Map. 

" The illustrations to this book are good, and it deserves to be widely read.'* 
— Morning Post. 

* * The author of this book knows the City churches one and all, and has 
studied their monuments and archives with the patient reverence of the true 
antiquarian, and, armed with the pen instead of the chisel, he has done his best 
to give permanent record to their claims on the nation as well as on the man 
in the street."— Z^a/t Mercury, 

Uniform with the above. 

London Riverside Churches 


Illustrated by Alexander Ansted. 

Imperial i6rao, 6s, 

Leaves from the Golden Legend 

Chosen by H. D. MADGE, LL.M. 

With numerous Illustrations by H. M. Watts. 

Post 8vo, half linen, gilt top, y. 6d. net. 

"One of the prettiest of current publications is 'Leaves from the Golden 

Legend,* a small volume which is a miracle of good taste in the matters of 

type, paper, illustrations and binding." — Globe, 

Human Immortality 

Professor of Philosophy at Harvard University. 
Fourth Edition. i6mo, 2s, 6d. 
" Professor James is well known as one of the most suggestive and original 
writers, and as certainly the most brilliant psychologist living. Whatever, there- 
fore, he has to say on this subject is worth listening to ; for he thinks freely, and 
he knows all that the scientist knows, and more too." — SpectcUor, 




Nenr uniform Edition. 

Crown 8vo, bound in red cloth. 

With a Frontispiece in photogravure to each Volume after 

Frederick Sandys, Leslie Brooke, William Hyde, 

Rob Sauber, Bernard Partridge, and others. 

6s. each. 
















The Tale of Chloe — The House on the 
Beach — Farina — The Case of General Ople 
AND Lady Camper. 

POEMS. 2 Volumes. 

Uniform with the above, without Frontispiece, 

An Essay on Comedy 
and the Use of the Comic Spirit 

But/tr &> Tanner, The Sehaooti Printing Works, Frvmt and Unitn. 





is book is due on the last date stamped below, or 

on the date to which renewed. 
Renewed books ate subject to immediate tecsU. 


IN STACKS iw2 0lQ 66 


JAN 1 ] '66-4 PM 




JUL 1 ^ mi 



KEC'D L15 

MAY 3 1 13'^ 





■ — JAN b'b5-lOAW 


Gcoerat Libraiy 
Univentty of CaliforiiMij 
Berkeley ■ 


yc 42038